ALBERT VAN BEESTDutch-American, 1820-1860
Born in Rotterdam, Albert Van Beest grew up amidst the Dutch wharves. From an early age he showed exceptional talent in sketching and he was chosen to travel with Prince Henry of the Netherlands and the Dutch fleet to the Mediterranean, where he spent three summers sketching portraits, Moroccan street scenes, and marine scenes. Many of his later oil paintings were developed from sketches made on these travels. Van Beest traveled the coast of Brazil, Patagonia, and the Falklands; spent a year in Iceland, painted in Morocco, and claimed to have been in the Russian Navy. In 1845 he announced to his mother that he was leaving home for a few days. With only the clothes on his back and a few pencils, he sailed to New York, where he remained for fifteen years. His best known pupil was the Massachusetts marine painter William Bradford, who sought Van Beest out after learning of his arrival in America. On Bradford’s invitation, Van Beest went to New Bedford where the two artists shared studio space and collaborated for three years. Occasionally Bradford painted the American vessels on canvases with Van Beest’s turbulent seas. A versatile painter comfortable with varied subjects, Van Beest nevertheless preferred the drama and turmoil of marine paintings and stormy seas. Equally dramatic and temperamental, Van Beest reportedly worked quickly and intensely at the easel, with great concentration and attention to detail. He died in New York at the age of forty.