Together with his father, Willem van de Velde the Elder, Willem van de Velde the Younger was one of the finest marine artists in Europe. The following is only a brief outline of the painter's life since this has already been described in detail in a number of publications by Michael Robinson.
Willem van de Velde the Younger was born in Leiden in 1633. Shortly afterwards the family moved to Amsterdam near the river IJ. His father had by then achieved fame as a skilled and accurate naval draughtsman and a producer of pen paintings, a kind of large to very large drawing in Indian ink on a lead white background 'die so geprepareert sijn dat men se in regen ende in wind can hangen ende met eene spongie afwaschen gelijck als oliwerve schilderijen' (which was prepared in such a way that it could be hung in the wind and rain and could be wiped clean with a sponge just like an oil painting). Van de Velde the Elder was the leading artist in this curious, though fascinating technique which was employed for a space of no more than fifty years. His wonderfully composed pen paintings also found buyers abroad, some as far as Italy. Cardinal Leopoldo de Medici was a particular admirer and patron. This tech- nique was very time-consuming and these paintings were therefore exceptionally expensive. Van de Velde the Elder asked one hundred and fifty guilders for a small pen painting, compared to a landscape by Jan van Goyen, for example, which might sell for around fifty guilders.
It was probably Willem van de Velde the Younger's father who taught him the accurate portrayal of a ship. He subsequently became a pupil of Simon de Vlieger where he learned the art of painting. This was probably in the late 1640s. De Vlieger moved from Amsterdam to Weesp in 1648 and it is quite possible that Van de Velde the Younger followed him there: in 1652 he married a young woman from the area. However, the marriage was dissolved the next year and in fact De Vlieger acted as witness at the dissolu- tion. The earliest dated painting by Willem van de Velde the Younger bears the inscription 1651. It must have been immediately clear that he possessed a remarkable talent. A letter to a foreign patron dated March 1652 indicates that Van de Velde the Younger was then working independently and at the early age of 18 he was already well known as 'een seer goed schilder ... van olijverven in seestucken en bataillen' (a very good painter... of oil paintings of seascapes and battles). Father and son Van de Velde were by now working together, although the Younger was apparently able to set his own prices since the intermediary promises the patron to ask 'waervoren het de veldens soon op het nauwste sal willen maecken' (de velden's son the lowest price for which he is willing to make it).