Jan van Os, Dutch Vessels in Calm Water, 1770-85
12.74 x 16.7 in.
Jan van Os (1744-1808) was a Dutch painter and founder of the respected Van Os family of artists. His wife, three, children, and grandson were all artists, mostly in the style of Dutch still life. Jan van Os is also best known for his still lifes of fruit and flowers. In his earlier career, Van Os explored landscapes and seascapes. An interesting painting from this period is Winter Landscape, which shows the harsh difficulties of a rural winter. Dutch Vessels in Calm Water is an interesting and engaging painting that has quite a bit going on. These several ships appear becalmed, unable to move without a wind. The calm water may not be pleasant, but dangerous. The ship on the right has begun loading passengers into a rowboat to get to shore. Another ship has run aground on a sand bar, completely stranded in the low tide and still water. Their failed attempts to get moving again litter the sand. In the distance there are more than a dozen ships with the same troubles. Van Os rendered this scene with great skill, the glassy water reflecting the ships both accurately and evocatively. At the horizon, the water blends with the pale sky, which stretches upward into these large white clouds. They reflect the stillness of the water, but also offer the possibility of coming winds. Van Os depicts the clouds with great care, making them fluffy and inviting, but also communicating the difficult weather of the day.