Mesdag's 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 journée d'hiver à Scheveningen. Mesdag himself was very pleased with Une journée d'hiver à Scheveningen and thought it would be a success in Paris. However, he received the golden medal for his seascape Les Brisants de la Mer du Nord (now in the collection of the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam). One of the members of the jury was so impressed by this painting that he bought it for 2500 Francs. A French art-critic considered Mesdag 'un bon heritier de la tradition Hollandaise'. Stimulated by his success in Paris and his love for the sea, Mesdag focused on the North Sea and the fisherman there. A period of great recognition began. 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. Following his Parisian medal he received numerous other rewards including a gold medal from the municipality of The Hague in 1872. His typical Dutch seascapes were very popular, not only at the Salon but also in other countries such as Belgium, France, America and Canada.
The present lot depicts the Scheveningen fishing fleet returning to shore after a days hard work. Mesdag depicted two Bomschuiten in the waves with fisherwomen on the beach sorting the catch, while the fishermen carry the catch ashore. 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, the sky and the beach are infused with soft hues of blue, white and grey, is strikingly rendered. The treatment of light is exceptional: the sea attains a transparency even though many deep hues are applied. Green, grey, white and brown is used to construct the waves. The sky is built up from countless tones of white and grey set against the grey sea. The sturdy Bomschuiten have bright sails that provide a wonderful counterpoint in the present composition. From a bird's-eye perspective the viewers attention is drawn into the vessels which enhances the effect of the rough sea and heavy movement of the waves.
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. Until his death in 1915 Mesdag visited the sea almost daily to seek inspiration for his paintings, also in his later years when the coast had dramatically changed due to industrialization. Mesdag declared in an interview in 1906: '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: 'Onder de Menschen: een gouden schildersbruiloft III', Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, 22 March 1906).