Hailing from a family of artists, the nineteenth-century Danish painter Fritz Melbye trained as a marine painter under the tutelage of his older brother and fellow artist Anton Melbye. And, in keeping with the family tradition the younger Melbye initially painted seascapes, but increasingly turned to landscapes, harbor, and town views rendered in a realistic manner, yet bathed in a warm atmospheric light that imbues his compositions, particularly those depicting the Caribbean with a sense of romance and allure.
Melbye travelled extensively throughout his life to such far-flung destinations as Europe, the Caribbean, Venezuela, North America, and Asia. In 1849, he journeyed to the Danish West Indies (today the U.S. Virgin Islands), settling in St. Thomas where he met the then burgeoning Caribbean-born artist (and future impressionist master) Camille Pissarro. Melbye was instrumental in Pissarro's decision to become an artist and soon became his teacher and mentor. The two would become life-long friends and later travelled to Caracas in 1852 where they established a studio for two years. Melbye's impact on Pissarro's early work is evident, and while the latter's Parisian years would certainly situate him as one of the leading proponents of Impressionism, his early training under the Danish painter was critical to his future development. Indeed the direct confrontation with nature and the specific atmospheric and light conditions of the tropics as well as Pissarro's interest in depicting local customs and people, are all traits equally visible in Melbye's work as one may observe in the two present works.