This exhibition, based on the works of Dutch artists of the 17th century, explores the profound, multifaceted relationships that the Dutch have had with water, including their gratitude for the generosity of the sea and their fear of their sometimes destructive power. It was in the seventeenth century that the Dutch rose to greatness from the richness of the sea, became leaders in the field of sea travel, transport, trade and security, as their mass freight and warships passed through the oceans, and small vessels and fishing boats sailed along inland and coastal waterways ways. Water has become not only the basis of their economic and naval success, but also has been a source of pleasure and enjoyment. In the warm summer months beaches covered with dunes offered picturesque views, and in winter frozen channels served as a place for leisure for people of any age who skated, played and enjoyed nature.
The exhibition presents about 50 paintings, engravings, drawings, rare books and models of ships, mainly from the National Gallery of Art's own collection. From quiet harbors and frozen canals to fierce sea battles, between Dutch ships and their Spanish adversaries, a wide thematic range of works shows the extraordinary influence of water on the art of the Dutch Golden Age.