Fishing and trade at sea provided exceptional prosperity in the 17th century, the "Golden Age". Paintings by Dutch painters with naval battles and historical scenes enjoyed enormous popularity. There was not much interest in the genre of seascapes in the Netherlands in the 18th century. It was not revived until the 19th century and the sea piece became very popular again. It had to radiate the glory of the Golden Age on its own time and capture the naval battles against the Napoleonic ruler. New types of ships developed and commercial shipping revived.
In Zeeland, various members of the Koekkoek family of painters established their name at the beginning of the 19th century. Ancestor Johannes painted cityscapes with waters, historical scenes, but especially ships on a troubled sea, "tossing waters". Ships with blown sails, slowly sinking in crashing waves and drowning people clinging to wreckage to rescue them. But ships anchored on reflective, calm water, in calm waters, were also his specialty. Hermanus Koekkoek sr, youngest son of Johannes Hermanus Koekkoek followed in his father's footsteps as a marine painter. Just like his father, Hermanus had a great eye for the daily life of the fishing people on the ships. He also excelled in the accurate representation of different ship types with accompanying rigging, the virtuoso drawing of the water and the lively, narrative upholstery. His work area was initially in the Zeeland waters and later, when he lived in Durgerdam and Amsterdam, on the Zuiderzee, which was then busy with commercial shipping.
In the course of the 19th century a shift can be seen in naval painting from the sea to the beach and from shipping to figures on ships. The emphasis was on the reproduction of carefree scenes that took place on the beach. The coast became more and more a place for pleasure than for work. Portraying fishermen's suffering, previously often the subject in the paintings of Jozef Isaels, was generally avoided. An exception to this was Hendrik Mesdag, who chose to paint at a relatively late age. He continued to see the high seas, with few or no ships, as the main theme. He captured beach and sea in its constantly changing moods from his beach cabin on Scheveningen beach. In a quick, loose touch and with an endless variety of brown, gold and gray colors, he brought these motifs to the canvas. Mesdag had a large production, as if he wanted to make up for lost time.
In the 20th century, naval painting gradually lost ground. Artists are drawn by the light of the water landscapes and the mundane atmosphere along the seaside resorts on the coast. Fishermen and their ships disappear from view and are replaced by flaneurs on the beaches and boulevards. However, sailing professional shipping, which populated our rivers for decades in the 20th century, remains an attractive image for painters.