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David Teniers the Younger (Antwerp 1610-Brussels 1690)

Fishermen on the Sea-shore c.1637-9

Oil on canvas | 92.9 x 123.0 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 405348

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  • David Teniers was son and pupil of David Teniers I; son-in-law of Jan Brueghel and friend of Rubens. He dominated post-war Flemish painting, becoming court painter and ayuda de cámera to Archduke Leopold William in Brussels, founder of the Antwerp academy of art in 1664, acquiring his country seat, Drij Toren, in 1662 and his patent of nobility in 1680. His work was greatly admired throughout Europe during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

    This landscape appeared on the London art market in 1810 and again in 1812, when it was bought for George IV. J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) seems to have seen it at this time and been inspired to create a group of coastal paintings and watercolours: Lyme Regis, Dorsetshire: A Squall (Glasgow Art Gallery), a watercolour of c.1812, which appeared as a line engraving in 1814; and Calais Sands, Low Water, Poissards collecting Bait (Bury Art Gallery, Museum and Archives), exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1830. It is easy to see what would have excited Turner: the flat, empty stab of monotonous silver-grey, failing to distinguish sea and sky, which makes up three-quarters of the pictures and runs without interruption onto the sandy colour of the foreground; the dramatic touch of red against the grey; the suggestion of casual heroism, as old man and hobbledehoy extract a meagre living in a hostile and dangerous environment; the drama of the storm; the contrast of rainbow and sunburst; the way in which a lone tower seems to symbolise man’s struggle against the elements.

    It would be tempting to claim that Teniers meant no such thing. But the contrast between these barren and desolate wastes and depictions of inland Flanders suggests that Turner may have read the mood correctly and that Teniers did intend to convey the harsh economy of the fishing communities and the idea that a tower and rainbow might allude to fortitude through faith. Guicciardini in his description of the Low Countries wrote that the ‘sea may well be tearmed, not only a neighbor but also a member of thes low Countrys, as well as for the great benefite that it bringeth to them: as also for the harme that it doth them when it rageth’.

    Signed lower left D TENIERS.F

    Acquired for George IV by Lord Yarmouth in 1812

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas


    92.9 x 123.0 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    121.5 x 150.2 x 7.5 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    "Les Pêcheurs Flamands"