From a young age, the Belgian marine painter Clays was attracted to the sea, rivers and canals. After sailing for a short time as a cabin boy, he decided to devote himself to marine painting. In Paris he was taught by Horace Vernet and the famous marine painter Théodore Gudin. From 1839 he showed his navies in romantic style at the Belgian Salons, where these made a big impression. The Scheldt, but also the Dutch and English coasts and rivers were Clays' most important subjects. From the 1860s, his work shows a stylistic change and the influence of Impressionism becomes visible.