Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen was born in Haarlem around 1575. Like his grandfather and father, who were sea-captains, Cornelis was, also, a seafarer. Karel van Mander wrote in his Schilder-Boek (1604) that van Wieringen, ‘having abandoned seafaring and other trades, has begun drawing and painting ships, including all that belongs to it’ and praised his exceptional technical knowledge, especially his ‘precise and firm hand for drawing the ropes’. He thereby shows a “wonderlijcken Gheest and verstandt” and “Because he understands the characteristics of ships, he needs to yield to none,” according to Van Mander.
The ships in this drawing by Van Wieringen are sketchy, but their masts and rigging are depicted with great force and accuracy. The scene was drawn with thin lines of the pen, particularly for the water in the background. His distinctive style alternated short lines with flowing parallel ones. His drawings are characterised by a distinctive, spirited and almost impressionistic penwork, reveal a personal interpretation of the world. These drawings rarely served as preparatory but recorded passing ideas.
It is generally believed that Van Wieringen has been an apprentice of Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom (1566-1640), the founder of the genre ‘marine painting’, but for this assumption there is no evidence. Vroom and Van Wieringen must surely have known each other as fellow citizens and rival marine painters. The engraver, draftsman and painter Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617) can be seen as a link between the two marine painters. By various authors, it is assumed that Van Wieringen was influenced by Golzius in his manner of drawing and printmaking. It is even thought to Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen was a pupil of Goltzius. Goltzius in 1603 bought a house in Haarlem Jansstraat, which was adjacent to that of Vroom.
Van Wieringen enjoyed a fine reputation as a marine specialist, garnering praise from numerous contemporary authors and receiving important commissions from Haarlem patrons as well as from the Amsterdam Admiralty. In 1629/30, he provided the design for a large tapestry of ‘The Capture of Damietta’ for the Haarlem town council, which still hangs in the magistrates’ chamber in Haarlem town hall. Although very few pictures by van Wieringen himself have survived, many drawings and prints after his designs exist. These include not only sea views but also harbours, coastlines, landscapes and cityscapes. Van Wieringen died on 29 December 1633 and was buried in the Grote Kerk in Haarlem.