Mesdag was one of the most celebrated leaders of the "The Hague School”. He was praised for his naturalistic seascapes which emphasized atmosphere and colour tone over the high finish and minute detail of his Romantic predecessors, like Johannes Christiaan Schotel (1787-1838) and Abraham Hulk (1813-1897). Beyond his brilliant artistry, Mesdag was a skillful promoter of Dutch Impressionistic art and of his own work in particular. His typically Dutch seascapes were very popular, not only at the Salon in Paris but also in other countries such as Belgium, France, America and Canada. His promotion not only reached Northern Europe, but in the 1890s he also organized several exhibitions in St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia, New York, Hartford and Boston and soon his fame was international accomplished. In America he was represented by his agents, Mrs. H. Suez-Artz (wife of David Adolf Constant Artz, a fellow Hague School painter), and Mrs. Gruppe (the wife of the Canadian-American artist Charles Paul Gruppe, whose works were heavily influenced by Mesdag). Mesdag's critical success led to a great demand for his work and led a Canadian artist to conclude that: 'Dutch pictures became a symbol of social position and wealth.' (see: P. Mellen, The Group of Seven, Toronto 1970, p. 5).
Mesdag differed to his colleagues in choosing only the sea as the subject matter for his works. This fascination began in 1868 when Mesdag and his wife Sientje made their annual visit to their native city Groningen, and they visited the Island of Norderney where he made his first sea studies. During his stay in Brussels from 1866 until 1869, he came under the influence of his teacher Willem Roelofs (1822-1897), who advised him to paint en plein air. Mesdag considered himself a realistic seascape painter, and in order to be closer to the sea, he purchased a room at the 'Villa Elba' and later at Hotel Rauch, located at the Scheveningen beach. Until his death in 1915, Mesdag visited the sea frequently to seek inspiration for his paintings. From his room he could observe the sea in every weather condition. When the character of the fishing village changed into a modern beach-resort around the turn of the century, Mesdag would use his old sketches as the basis for his pictures.
A truthful rendering of reality and sincerity can be seen in Mesdag's seascapes, whether he painted the North Sea in stormy weather or calm and peaceful, his paintings always make a strong impression on the spectator. The author, Frederick W Morton wrote an article in the May 1903 edition of the American art journal, Brush and Pencil. He wrote: “… [Mesdag] is a great marine-painter because he thoroughly knows his subject – he has sat by it, brooded over it, studied it in its every phase – and by straightforward methods, without the trick of palette or adventitious accessories, has sought to make and has succeeded in making his canvases convey the same impression to the spectator that the ocean conveyed to him…” In the present lot the artist depicted numerous Bomschuiten in the waves. The fishermen and anchor lines in the water indicate that the coast is nearby. As there was no harbour in Scheveningen until 1894, the sailing vessels had to land directly on the sandy beaches at high tide. The detailed and atmospheric scene depicted in the present lot, in which the sea and the sky are infused with soft hues of blue, white and grey, is strikingly rendered. The present lot is a beautiful example of Mesdag's work in which he depicts the interesting effect of light on water and the sky.