Born in 1837 in Rotterdam, Petrus van der Velden was trained as a lithographer and headed a printing company when he decided to become a painter in 1864. He took lessons at the academy in Rotterdam, went to Berlin and made a study trip to the coast of Normandy. In the 1960s, he preferred painting navies, for which he found inspiration in and around Rotterdam. From 1870 he painted genre scenes with Marken as subject, presumably under the influence of Jozef Israels, at whose request he had moved to The Hague. He eventually emigrated to New Zealand in 1890 with his entire family. He would become very famous there, among other things through a series of paintings he made of the Otira gorge. In New Zealand he also continued to paint Dutch subjects. Through his work and a number of gifted pupils, his influence on 20th century painting in New Zealand was considerable.