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Vroom, Hendrick Cornelisz

Haarlem, h. 1566 - Haarlem, 1640

Considered the pioneer of Dutch seascape painting, he received his training in Delft, where his mother’s family lived. According to Van Mander, his stepfather, a ceramic painter like Vroom’s father, wanted him to follow the same career path. Consequently, Hendrick Cornelisz fled and embarked to Spain. From there, he went to Italy, where he worked for various ecclesiastical patrons in Florence and Rome. According to the historian Luigi Lanzi, he was known there as ‘Lo Spagnolo’ since he had arrived from Spain. Between 1585 and 1587, he worked for Cardinal Ferdinand de Medici. It seems that it was the cardinal’s interest in ships and seascapes that led him to specialise in this genre. The Villa Colonna in Rome contains a group of seascape paintings attributed to Vroom, which were some of his earliest works.
In 1590, he returned to Haarlem, where he bought a house and married Joosje Cornelisse. After their wedding, they moved to Gdansk, where the painter’s uncle, Frederick Vroom, was a municipal architect. There he produced a series of paintings for the Jesuits, which are now lost. In 1591, they returned to Haarlem. After the birth of his first son, Cornelis Hendricksz. Vroom, he embarked on a voyage to Portugal, survived a shipwreck and stayed there for some time selling paintings in Lisbon and Setubal. He returned to Haarlem and definitively established himself as a seascape painter with a solid reputation. His return coincided with an unprecedented boom in the Dutch navy, both for trade and military purposes. Hence, he received numerous commissions from the city’s municipal government and the High Admiralty to depict Dutch and English naval victories over the Spanish Armada as well as from the East India Company to ‘portray’ the various Dutch ships loaded with merchandise from Brazil and the East Indies before their departure or upon their return. On the other hand, Vroom was the first painter to produce drawings showing the life of fishermen at work on the beach.
His paintings were highly appreciated in his day and fetched high prices. He ran a large workshop and had numerous followers: among those who deserve mention are his own son, Cornelisz Hendricksz. Vroom (around 1591–1619); Aert Anthonisz. (around 1579), Cornelis Verbeek (1590–1631/35); and Cornelis Claesz. van Wieringen (around 1580–1633). According to Houbraken, Jan Porcellis was also a pupil of his, a fact that has not been verified to date (Posada Kubissa, T.: Pintura holandesa en el Museo Nacional del Prado. Catálogo razonado, 2009, p. 261).

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