After his visit to Peter Sterkenburg’s exhibition in Hong Kong in 1992, professor Brian Morton (O.B.E., J.P.) chairman of the ‘Swire Institute of Marine Science’ was so impressed by the artist’s work that he commissioned Peter to depict the institute’s building and surroundings on canvas. Professor Morton was made a Knight in the ‘Order of the Golden Ark’ by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands in 1997, an Officer in the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by HRH Queen Elizabeth in 1999 and was, in 2004, the sole recipient of ‘The Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Gold Medal’, all for his contributions to marine environmental protection, education and conservation.
The Shek O Golf & Country Club offers one of the nicest golf experiences in Hong Kong, but the entrance is strictly reserved for members and their guests. The course has 18 holes of which 9 are overlooking the ocean and the other 9 wind their way through a sloping valley. The history of the club goes right back to 1919 making it one of the oldest courses in Hong Kong. Long-time member Dino Capelvenere saw the work of Dutch painter Peter Sterkenburg at a painting exhibition in 1992 and was so impressed that he commissioned the artist to depict the golf course from the 4th tee from where he once hit a ‘hole in one’. A second special commission to depict the golf course came from the board of the club once they had seen Dino’s painting. This second painting hangs in the lounge of the clubhouse at Shek O. Dino Capelvenere (1938) has lived in Hong Kong since 1970 together with his Danish wife Annelis.
The Horsburgh Lighthouse is the oldest of the four lighthouses in the Singapore Strait. it is located on a rocky outcrop in the sea approximately 54 kilometres to the east of Singapore and 14 kilometres from the Malaysian state of Johor. The tower is, at its foundation 6.6 meter in diameter and it stands almost 33 meter tall from sea level. It has seven floors, plus an upper light-room section. Looking for historic material for his forthcoming Asian exhibition in 1996, the artist Peter Sterkenburg found two antique prints which he used as reference material to make a painting showing the lighthouse on a sunny day in 1860. The Horsburgh Lighthouse is still in use today.
On a somewhat foggy day in early 1992, Peter Sterkenburg was invited by Dino Capelvenere, a friend of KLM manager Ton van der Werf, to join a harbour cruise through the port of Hong Kong. During that voyage, Peter discovered a rusted Chinese cargo ship anchored off the runway of Kai Tak, Hong Kong's former airport. The Chinese freighter was later immortalized on canvas by the painter. With the introduction in 1998 of Chek Lap Kok a state-of-the-art airport on a manually constructed island north of Lantau, the old airport of Kai Tak was abandoned.
The Dutch national airline KLM in Hong Kong started sponsoring fine arts and in particular Dutch artists in the 1990s. Marte Röling, Joseph Cals and Paul Huf all exhibited in Hong Kong and because Peter Sterkenburg excelled in portraying maritime subjects, a major genre within Dutch Golden Age painting and still popular in the Netherlands till this day, he was also invited.
Peter Sterkenburg was a modest and a bit shy man and it took the necessary persuasion to convince him that there were great opportunities for him as a painter in the harbour city of Hong Kong. After much hesitation the artist accepted the invitation and in 1992 a solo exhibition in Hong Kong followed where 20 paintings were sold in 2 weeks.
Clippers & cliffs
For the exhibition in Hong Kong in 1992, the Frisian artist Peter Sterkenburg made a painting of an English tea clipper with the white cliffs of Dover as a background. The chalk cliffs of Dover are part of the south-east coast of England at the Pas-de-Calais and stretch along the coast on either side of the town. The rocks are mainly formed by chalk rock that consists almost entirely of limestone shells of tiny sea creatures. This gives the cliffs their white appearance. The origins of the tea clipper lie in America. In the 1840s, American shipbuilders created the first ships of this class which with their sharp bows and slim hulls were without doubt the finest wooden ships ever built. English shipowners quickly realized that the clipper had an advantage and started copying and further improving the American design.
In 1996, an exhibition of marine paintings called ‘Harbours of Asia & Australia, now and in the past’ which afterwards would also visit Singapore, Sydney and Jakarta, started at the Regent Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Dutch marine painter Peter Sterkenburg had made some twenty paintings for this traveling exhibition showing images of ships and harbours in the Far East, both in the past and in the present. A year before he had visited all four cities to get inspiration.
Frisian maritime painter Peter Sterkenburg possessed the extraordinary ability of making water and skies move in his seascapes. Or so it seems. The North Sea and the Wadden Sea with their changing moods were a continuous source of inspiration for the artist.
Windjammers, also known as ‘tall ships’, made their appearance in the 1880s and sailed the seas until the mid-20th century. As the name suggests, they were large sailing ships with four masts and sometimes as much as 34 sails that could be sailed by a small crew, often no more than 14 men. Windjammers mainly transported low-value bulk cargo for transport to Europe on routes where transport by steamship was too expensive, such as grain from Australia and saltpetre and guano from Chile.
In the 17th century, the Dutch East India Company had the largest fleet the world had ever seen. This period is called the Golden Age in the Netherlands. For his solo exhibition in Hong Kong in 1992, the maritime Frisian painter Peter Sterkenburg made a large painting depicting VOC ships on the IJ. The painting received a lot of appreciation and special commissions soon followed for similar paintings.
During the 19th century, cod fishing was an important source of income for North American fishermen. Around 1875, hundreds of wooden schooners from Gloucester, Boston and other fishing towns sailed to the Grand Banks, a shallow part of the North Atlantic Ocean, to fish. As soon as there was enough fish on board, the fast ’Gloucester schooners’ with their sharply cut hulls and many sails hurried back to their home ports where
This is the first video that appeared on YouTube about the work of Peter Sterkenburg. The video shows in rapid succession some of the most beautiful paintings of the artist under the title ’Bound to the sea’, Peter J. Sterkenburg, Painter of Seascapes, 1955-2000.
The Frisian marine painter Peter J. Sterkenburg made many paintings of ships and the sea in his life. But that he did not shy away from other subjects, is evident from this video with a number of exceptional paintings that give the impression as if they were painted three-dimensionally. Many of his paintings are included in the biography "bound to the sea", an English edition, which can be ordered through the foundation.
Harlingen is the Frisian city where maritime painter Peter Sterkenburg was born in 1955. He could regularly be found on the harbour side and used the city many times as a background for his paintings, usually with calm water in the foreground. But once or twice a year, the water in the Wadden Sea is driven by the wind so boisterously that foam forms on the waves. The artist observed this phenomenon in 1985 and captured it in a very vivid painting.
Storm and fog were common causes of ships wrecking. The theme of "shipwreck" does not appear to be very popular among collectors of maritime paintings. Nevertheless, maritime painter Peter Sterkenburg also made a number of works that depict ships in distress.
The career of Peter Sterkenburg cannot really be described in a few minutes. From a young man who could draw well at school, the artist turned into one of the leading Dutch maritime painters of the 20th century. These images attempt to portray this development.
Based on the first working steam engine designed by Scottish inventor James Watt, Scotland's first steam tug was built in 1801. The wooden ’Charlotte Dundas’ had a paddle wheel at the stern powered by a steam engine. Unfortunately, the use of steam power on ships was not a great success at first, because the wind was free, but gradually steam propulsion started to become popular in the nineteenth century. In 1825 the first paddle steam tugboat in the Netherlands was put into operation, soon followed by more. A favorite of marine painter Peter Sterkenburg was a ship called the ’Hercules’ which was launched in Newcastle in 1877.
Before maritime painter Peter Sterkenburg could start on a painting, he first made a preliminary study in which he placed his ships in such a way that they would look best on the canvas. Often, but not always, he drew the position of the ships from above and indicated the position of the sun and the wind direction. Then he made another drawing showing the same scene seen from the water. Fortunately, a number of those sketches have been preserved. Together with the accompanying paintings, the sketches give a good picture of how the painter prepared himself before he started to paint.