The present monumental painting by Mesdag is a great accomplishment by the artist and was painted in 1906 for the yearly Salon exhibition in Paris. This year was a special year for Mesdag, as it was the year in which he received the Gold Honorary Medal for Art and Science from the House Order of Oranje-Nassau by Queen Wilhelmina and he celebrated his 50th (Golden) wedding anniversary with his wife Sientje Mesdag-van Houten in his beloved Pulchri Studio. Works by both Hendrik Willem and his wife Sientje Mesdag-van Houten were shown by various galleries in The Hague. Mesdag received many honours during his lifetime. In 1889, he was elected chairman of the artist society Pulchri Studio, the society he joined twenty years earlier, and remained in that post until 1907. He received the royal distinction of Officer in the Order of Oranje-Nassau in 1894. And it February 1901 Mesdag was promoted to Commander of the Order of the Dutch Lion.
At the time the present lot was painted, Mesdag was well established in the national and international art world by this time. His international career really started with the gold medal he received at the Salon de Paris in 1870. He exhibited two paintings in Paris, Les Brisants de la Mer du Nord and Une journee d'hiver a Scheveningen. Mesdag himself was very pleased with Une journee d'hiver a Scheveningen and thought it would be a success in Paris. However, he received the golden medal for Les Brisants de la Mer du Nord. One of the members of the Jury was so impressed by this painting that he bought it for 2500 Francs. Stimulated by his success in Paris and his love for the sea, Mesdag moved to The Hague were he could focus on the North Sea and the fisherman there. A period of great recognition began. Following his Parisian medal he received numerous other accolades including a gold medal from the municipality of The Hague in 1872.
Until his death in 1915 Mesdag visited the sea at Scheveningen almost daily to seek inspiration for his paintings, also in his later years when the coast had dramatically changed due to industrialization. In the night of 23 to 24 December 1894 the inhabitants of the fishing village Scheveningen were surprised by a heavy southwester storm which destroyed more than two-third of their complete fishing fleet. This incident had great influence on the communitiy of Scheveningen. Not only did the fishermen loose their livelihood by loosing their boats, also the appearance of Scheveningen would never look as before. To protect the village a quay-wall was build and plans were made for building a harbour (which opened in 1904). The old fashioned bomschuiten which could be drawn on the beach by horses were traded in for modern fishing vessels and so changed the beloved beach with her characteristic view -admired by so many the Hague School-painters- forever.
The present lot is a beautiful example of Mesdag's work in which he depicts the typical Scheveningen Bomschuiten and the interesting effect of light on water and the sky. Mesdag declared in an interview in 1906 the following about the loss of the Dutch seascape: ' Maar 't bedrijf Scheveningen is er veel minder op geworden nu met die vissershaven. Al die nieuwigheden, waar dient het voor? (...) Wat ik daar gemaakt heb, zo'n jaar of wat geleden, dat krijg je nooit meer te zien! Da's uit, met Scheveningen is 't gedaan. En als ik 't niet alles nog wist van vroeger, uit die schetsen, waarachtig dan was het afgelopen' (see: Anonymous, 'Onder de Menschen: een gouden schildersbruiloft III', in: Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, 22 March 1906). The present lot depicts the Scheveningen fishing fleet setting out into open water on an early morning. The treatment of light is exceptional: the quiet sea attains a transparency though the various applied deep hues created through the reflections from the Bomschuiten. Green, grey, white and brown is used to construct the water. The great sky is built up from countless tones of white and light-grey set against a clear blue. The sturdy Bomschuiten have bright colourful sails that provide a wonderful counterpoint with their surroundings. The present important painting provides the opportunity to revisit the natural beauty of the North Sea prior to its many changes.