About Isaac Willaerts
Utrecht circa 1620 – 1693 Utrecht
Painter of maritime subjects and of beach views. He is said also to have painted a few winter landscapes.
Isaac was the third son of the famous Utrecht marine painter Adam Willaerts (1577 – 1664). Adam was born in London, where his Flemish father (a textile worker) had emigrated to, before settling in Holland. Adam and his wife Mayken had three sons and two daughters.
Isaac and both his elder brothers studied under their father:
- Cornelis (circa 1600 – 1666), who was a history and portrait painter;
- Abraham (1603/1613 – 1669), who was also a marine painter.
Adam, who had been influenced by Hendrik Vroom, taught his sons to work in a very minute, anecdotic, colourful, Flemish-inspired style.
Isaac was inscribed in the Guild of Saint Luke in his hometown Utrecht as apprentice in 1637. His father Adam had been one of the founders of this independent Guild for Painters in 1611, together with Paulus Moreelse and Joachim Wtewael. Between 1666 and 1668 Isaac was Overman, in 1668 he became Dean.
Isaac never married. His nephew, Johan (the son of his brother Cornelis), who was a silversmith, was his heir. Johan’s sister Maria married the famous still life painter Abraham Mignon (1640 – 1679).
The beach still lifes with fish of Willem Ormea (Utrecht circa 1611 – 1673 Utrecht) regularly have a backdrop representing the sea with some ships that was painted by Adam Willaerts; some were painted by our Isaac. In August 1659 he was paid 10 Guilders for his collaboration in two paintings. According to Laurens J. Bol in those days there was a genuine collaborative effort between Ormea and the Willaerts family, although owners of an Ormea still life are sometimes also known to have asked the Willaerts family workshop to improve the background.
Hester, a sister of Isaac married in 1661 a former tradesman and warden of the prison of Utrecht, Jacob Gillig. Gillig became an important fish still life painter (of sweet water fish). Accidentally the fish market of Utrecht was situated next to the town hall, which also held the prison. Willem Ormea must have advised him at the start of his career.
Isaac’s other sister, Abigael, also married a painter, the further unknown Cornelis van der Nijpoort.
About our painting
The composition of our painting is typical of the Willaerts: a partial view of a harbour town with fishermen unloading and selling their catch on the beach, while the other part of the composition shows the sea with several ships.