As early as the 17th century, artists from home and abroad traveled to the North Sea coast, where they found inspiration for painting beach scenes. Fishermen as well as strolling civilians became popular subjects. In the 18th century, interest in the beach scene waned, only to flourish again in the 19th century. This was the result of a growing international reappraisal of Golden Age painting, but also of strong feelings of nationalism in the Netherlands. In "contemporary" painting, subjects that were also popular in the 17th century became favorites, such as the beach scene, in which the centuries-long connection of the Dutch people with the sea and fishing was expressed.
The fishing genre
In the foreign romanticism, painters of the beach sometimes made the stage for drama, where shipwrecks took place in a flying storm. In the Netherlands, however, calmer beach scenes predominated, with ships safely on dry land and the everyday hustle and bustle of fishermen. Andreas Schelfhout and his contemporaries were often to be found in Scheveningen. Man is not the main motif in these romantic beach scenes, although he is important as a narrative element. In the second half of the 19th century, fishermen were given a leading role in portraying beach life and the fishing genre was created. Peaceful beach and interior scenes were often painted, but sometimes also charged depictions, full of fishermen's suffering.
The fashionable beach life
And then, at the end of the 19th century, cheerful scenes appear of beach walkers, bathers and sunbathers, and of children playing in the sand. This changing view was caused by the rise of the bathing culture. Following the English example, seaside resorts arose along the North Sea coast in the first decades of the 19th century. In the Netherlands, the fishing villages of Scheveningen (1818) and Zandvoort (1824) were the first. The opening of the Municipal Bathhouse in Scheveningen in 1828 played an important role in the development of bathing life in Holland. Bath carriages appeared and wicker beach chairs for the then still dressed from head to toe. Artists, such as those from the Hague School, regularly traveled to Scheveningen and Katwijk, but also to IJmuiden, Noordwijk and Zandvoort, to capture this lively beach life in a smooth brush. Katwijk was a true artists' colony around 1900, which attracted Dutch, but also many foreign painters. At the turn of the century, further south, Veere and Domburg attracted many luminists, who were fascinated by the bright Zeeland light.
Bomschuit or bath guest
Fishing life remained in vogue with painters at the beginning of the 20th century, but bathers and accompanying entertainment were increasingly a favorite subject. Painters who chose to paint fisherman's life found plenty of inspiration on the beach until the First World War. After that the barges were replaced by keeled sailing loggers, who had to divert to harbors, thus disappearing the picturesque upholstery for fishing scenes from the beach. However, other painters were more attracted to the fashionable bathing life. With them and the later moderns no longer fishermen or ships: in the 20th century the beach became the realm of the sea and sun lovers, expanding to the coasts of southern France, Spain and Italy.