Johannes Hermanus Koekkoek was born in Veere in the South West Netherlands on the 17th August 1778. He was the first of five generations of Dutch maritime and landscape painters and specialised in painting seascapes. He trained his four sons to paint and his eldest son Barend Cornelis Koekkoek (1803-1862) became a famous Romantic landscape painter.
Koekkoek learnt to paint under Thomas Gaal (1739-1817), co-founder and Director of the Middleburg Drawing Academy. He also worked in Gaal’s wallpaper factory and became a skilled draughtsman.
Koekkoek was one of the first 19th century artists to be inspired by Dutch 17th century marine painters including Van de Velde (1611-1693) and Ludolf Bakhuizen (1630-1708). Many of Koekkoek’s works recall the glorious 17th century Golden Age when Holland was an economic powerhouse. His highly detailed paintings reveal his extensive knowledge of the vessels that navigated Zeeland’s waterways at the time.
He painted seascapes in a highly detailed manner in his studio using hundreds of outdoor sketches of maritime vessels, figure studies and seascapes. This portfolio of sketches was passed down from father to son in the Koekkoek family and many motifs like fisherman in small vessels and plants are repeated in their paintings. His work was particularly popular with Englishmen on the Grand Tour of Europe.
Koekkoek worked in Middelburg, Durgerdam, Amsterdam and Medemblik. He taught art in Middelburg and manufactured models of small vessels to study and practice drawing. He was later granted membership to the prestigious Amsterdam Academy.
He died in Amsterdam on the 9th January 1851.