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 famous marine painter Hendrik Willem Mesdag painted the present lot only a few months before the storm and it depicts a view of the Scheveningen beach as Mesdag liked it the most: the broad beach with fishermen returning homewards at the end of the day. They are busy preparing the vessels, so the horses can tow the boats on the beach. Some fishermen lower the sails, some are busy holding the lines, while on the right side of the picture two men are standing in sea to catch the lines of recent arrived boats. A group fisherwomen and children are waiting on the beach to help fetching the daily catch. In spite of the activity on the beach, the painting is dominated by the overwhelming impression of the sentiment of the typical grey toned Dutch coast.
In the 1890's Mesdag was very succesfull and his commitment to depicting the theme of seashore scenes was well established in the national and international art world.
His fascination with this subject matter started after he visited the Island of Norderney in 1868 with his wife Sientje, during their annual visit to their native city Groningen, where he made his first sea studies. 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. 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 alle nog wist van vroeger, uit die schetsen, -waarachtig dan was het afgelopen." (Anon., 'Onder de Menschen: Een gouden schildersbruiloft III', Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant (NRI), 22 March 1906).
Mesdag exhibited the present lot at the international exhibition at the Salon de Paris, where he was a regular participator with at least two works every year between 1870 and 1911.
The present lot will be included in the new publication of Johan Poort entitled Hendrik Willem Mesdag; de schilder van de Noordzee, Wassenaar 2001, no. 1894.13.S. (April/May 2001).