The importance of Andreas Schelfhout within the development of 19th century art has long been recognised as pivotal. From his initially reluctant pursual of the winter landscape as an entirely separate genre of landscape painting to his international success in the 1830s and influence on subsequent generations of pupils and followers, his pre-eminence among Dutch romantic artists remains unchallenged.
In 1825, Schelfhout witnessed firsthand the great storm at Scheveningen on 4 February and was immensely enthralled by its ferocity. A few days later he wrote; 'Last Friday, when that merciless storm and flood raged at its most terrible, I proceeded to Scheveningen where I was witness to a spectacle that makes my heart still quiver. (...) Sea and sky seemed as one element. From where I stood, the scene was terrible' (letter to Immerzeel, quoted in W. Laanstra, Andreas Schelfhout, 1787-1870, Amsterdam, 1995, p. 19). The ferment of the sea and its potential for violence were to become a pictorial obsession that the artist was to return to throughout his career and the subsequent popularity of such a theme, which had hitherto been little explored by 19th century artists, was to have a profound influence both on Schelfhout's followers and on Dutch art in general over the course of the next few decades.
In Shipping in stormy water the small rowing boat heading into the middle ground provides a sense of depth to the picture that is further reinforced by the two larger ships pointing towards the distant vessel at the centre point of the horizon. Subtle gradations in light between the foreground and the main body of water beyond the jetty add to this sense that the composition radiates out from the focal point of the painting, while the sea retains a luminosity in its turmoil that is punctuated by the white caps of the waves. Shipping in stormy water displays Schelfhout's acute sense of observation and his mastery of form and composition and is testament to an artist who was as rooted in the traditions of the 17th century masters he was influenced by as he was highly innovative within a new tradition of romantic art.
Willem Laanstra has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.