ABRAHAM STORCK (Amsterdam 1644 – 1708 Amsterdam)

Abraham Storck

Abraham Storck (Amsterdam 1644 – 1708 Amsterdam)

Study of a Man-of-War

Graphite, pen and brown ink, grey wash, graphite framing lines, fragmentary countermark AHS (?), 143 x 182 mm (5.6 x 7.2 inch)

Signed ‘A: Stork.’ (pen and brown ink, lower right)

Private collection, France


Abraham Storck is known as the last of the great maritime artists of the Dutch Golden Age.1 The subject was introduced by painters like Hendrick Vroom in the beginning of the seventeenth century and brought to near-perfection by father and son Willem van de Velde. Abraham was the youngest son of Jan Jansz Sturck, also known as Sturckenburgh; Abraham himself was likewise sometimes known as Sturckenburgh. Abraham’s elder brothers Johannes and Jacobus also became painters and it is thought that all three brothers were trained by their father, with additional training received in the studio of Jan Abrahamsz. Beerstraten, who was an acquaintance of the family.

By 1688 Storck was a member of the Guild of St Luke in Amsterdam and by that time he must have already embarked on producing his extensive artistic oeuvre, including sea battles, Mediterranean town and harbour scenes, river landscapes and depictions of whaling activities. In 1670 he travelled in the German princedoms, visiting Schenkenschanz, near Cleves, Bonn, Mains, Worms, Speyer and Aschaffenburg. It has been speculated that the artist also travelled to Italy, but there is no documentary proof for this. Upon his death in 1708, Storck was described by the artist’s biographer Arnold Houbraken as a painter of ‘tempestuous and tranquil seascapes.’2 Abraham Storck was buried in the St Anthonis cemetary in Amsterdam in April 1708.

A corpus of several dozens of drawings is known by Storck. Many, like the present charming sheet, can be considered as studies drawn from life, to serve as source material for one of the artist’s marine paintings. Others are more finished in nature and were likely made for contemporary collectors, which are frequently signed and dated. It has rightly been observed by Peter Schatborn that our drawing is rather exceptional in having so much free ‘space’ around the actual drawing. Although possibly not intended by the draughtsman, this conveys a successful atmosphere of spaceousness, as if one would suddenly see this man-of-war coming out of a low-hanging cloud on a misty day.

A comparable drawing of a Dutch man-of-war is preserved in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, which furthermore has a signature which is highly comparable (fig.).3 This sheet is similarly executed in pen and brown ink and with added grey wash, but in the Rijksmuseum sheet more of the surroundings have been delineated, using mostly wash. Further comparable drawings by Storck of ships are in the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum in Braunschweig, Germany.4


1. For the artist, see: I.H. van Eeghen, 'De schildersfamilie Sturck, Storck of Sturckenburch', Oud-Holland 68 (1953), pp. 216-223; Jeroen Giltaij and Jan Kelch (eds.), Praise of ships and the sea: the Dutch marine painters of the 17th century, exh. cat. Rotterdam (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen) 1996, pp. 387-97; Jenny Gaschke (ed.), Turmoil and tranquillity: the sea through the eyes of Dutch and Flemish masters 1550-1700, exh. cat. London (National Maritime Museum) 2008, p. 130.
2. ‘Ongestuime en stille zeestukken’, Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen, Amsterdam 1718-21, vol. III, p. 230.
3. Pen and brown ink, grey wash, 125 x 173 mm; inv. no. RP-T-1902-A-4590. The Rijksprentenkabinet also owns a drawing of the English man-of-war The Royal Charles, drawn by Storck in 1672 after it had been captured by the Dutch, inv. no. RP-T-00-256.
4. Pen and brown ink, grey wash, 195 x 124 mm, 150 x 133 mm, 140 x 182 mm respectively, inv. nos. Z.2578-2580.