Review: “The Golden Age of Dutch Seascapes” at the Peabody Essex Museum (MA)





What with all those cataclysmic storms, shipwrecks, sea battles and marauding pirates in 17th-century Dutch marine paintings, it’s a wonder anyone dared venture off land at all. There are periods of calm in “The Golden Age of Dutch Seascapes” at the Peabody Essex Museum here, but the overall impression is harrowing.

Yet the intrepid shipbuilders of the Netherlands launched vessels by the tens of thousands during the 1600s, and the Dutch ruled the known — to Europeans — aquatic universe until the British caught up and surpassed them by the end of the century.

And Dutch artists were masters of the painted seascape, which came into its own around the middle of the 16th century. This well-produced show presents 72 paintings by about three dozen of the genre’s most esteemed practitioners. It was organized by the National Maritime Museum, in Greenwich, England, where it appeared under the title “Turmoil and Tranquillity: The Sea Through the Eyes of Dutch and Flemish Masters, 1550-1700.”

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