My favorite painting in the world is in Massachusetts at the Peabody Essex Musuem until Sept 7, and it’s also in today’s New York Times:
All these 17c seascapes come from the National Maritime Museum’s collection, in Greenwich (London), where I was a fellow in 2007-8. As the article notes, seeing all these paintings together reminds you that these are generic works, fairly similar each to each. But as documents of the increasing fascination with the maritime world that was transforming European culture in the 17c, it’s hard to find anything more visually striking.
I remember the first time I saw “The Wreck of the Amsterdam,” the anonymous Flemish painting that’s the lead image in the Times review. It’s a huge canvas, and I came upon it in an exhibition at the Queen’s House in Greenwich (built in 1605 by Inigo Jones) , and the thing almost knocked me over. It’s beautiful, powerful, and just overwhelming. You see the huge ship heeled over almost horizontally by the waves, being driven onto a rocky coast, with an already-wrecked ship on one side and a flaming shipped manned by devils on the other. A lone sailor clings to the mast. An allegorical portrait of life at sea?