News 2000-2015

New sea palace from HAL in service 02-12-2000

You can view the full article here (Dutch), courtesy of De Telegraaf


FORT LAUDERDALE (Florida) - When you float with Frans and Hedwig Dingemans on the waves of a turbulent Caribbean Sea and pass through eleven floors of lounges, restaurants and corridors of the 'MS Amsterdam III', the latest addition and the brand new flagship of the Holland-America Line, you get the impression that you are on their private yacht. That's how they talk about it.

"It also feels a bit like my ship," says Frans (57) from Utrecht, who took care of the complete interior of the newest HAL sea giant, a cruise ship of 61,000 tons, which bare already cost about 70 million guilders.   

"The Amsterdam is my eighth ship", says engineer Frans, designer and architect. "Frans is actually a genius", Hedwig whispers to me. "He has thought up everything you see. Every rug, every lampshade, every paneling, every chair, every decoration, every piece of art especially made or purchased and restored."

What you find: not only a sailing five-star hotel, but also a floating museum. A real Love Boat too. 


Frans has invested millions in art and antiques. Huge Amsterdam tile panels from the Golden Age, freshly baked in Italy, monumental paintings from the heyday of the VOC by Peter Sterkenburg, baroque angel statues from 1710, still lifes in the old style by Cornelis Le Mair from Eindhoven. But also tasteful tapestries from Barbara Broekman from Amsterdam. Dutch masterpieces, old, new and copied, because that is what the Americans want: a lot of culture with the Dutch touch.  

Frans and Hedwig Dingemans: "Holidays and going out mean seeing and being seen"

Book  'Bound to the Sea' A Painter of Seascapes 1955-2000 (2001)

Henri van der Zee, author of Sterkenburg’s biography ‘Bound to the Sea’, is offered a copy of the book by co-author, Ton van der Werf in 2001 in the artist's favorite pub ‘De Steenen Man’ in Zurich, Friesland.

At the foundation "Maritime Paintings Peter J. Sterkenburg" and at selected book stores, the second English edition of the book: "Bound to the Sea" is available.
The publication has a hard (laminated cover) and contains, in addition to a biography of the artist, more than 100 color images of his paintings. The dimensions of the book are 31.5 by 24.5 cms. English edition ISBN 90-9014898-1. Weight 2.5 pounds.
Price € 29,50 excluding shipping.
Shipping cost are for the account of the buyer. You can place your order via our e-mail address:
Please advise the destination of the book and we will let you know  the total amount which you have to pay. Your order will be shipped as soon as payment is received in our Bank account number NL32RABO0132846411 in the name of Stichting Maritieme Schilderijen Peter J. Sterkenburg. An email confirmation of your payment to our address is appreciated.


Family and friends give substance to a book about Peter Sterkenburg 19-09-2001

‘Bound to the sea’  Posthumous homage 

by Mirjam de Klerk 

HARLINGEN – The name Peter Sterkenburg may not immediately ring bells for everyone. This is different in maritime circles, and most fans of seascapes in the style of the old masters are usually familiar with his work. His paintings are internationally known for their atmosphere and accuracy. One can almost smell the sea, see the waves moving and ships sailing. Anyone who enters the restaurants of Zeezicht or Anna Casparii in Harlingen can admire a number of works by Peter. His last canvas is hanging on the cruise ship Amsterdam of the Holland America line: 700 x 110 cm, depicting VOC ships. Unfortunately, he was not able to finish it himself: he died on Easter Monday 2000, at the age of 44 years, completely unexpectedly. He died, in the house in Zurich, Friesland, where he lived for many years. 


Soon after his death, the idea took shape to putting together a book about the life and work of this gifted painter who made thousands of paintings. Almost all commissioned, because they were very popular. When he died he had work for another two years. That could have been even more, but that was the maximum for him, otherwise it was impossible to oversee. That has actually been the case for the last ten years, says his sister Femke, who lives in Harlingen. In her house there are many paintings and a few lithographs that Peter made. On the floor is a painting that is very surreal, but already painted with great precision. It is in the atmosphere of Dali and Willink, of which he was a great admirer. 


“He made that at the end of his high school years. We lived in Franeker at the time but he went to school in Harlingen (where he was born, ed.) at the RSG, I think it was his first oil painting. I remember that when there was drawing class, all students would come out to look at his drawings which already were beautiful and special”. She takes me upstairs and pulls out a folder containing framed drawings by Peter, mostly from his primary school period. His great talent is already very clear. “When we decided to make a book, we actually had no idea how many paintings Peter had made. The book contains approximately 120 images, which is not much if you know that he may have made a few thousand. Because almost everything has been sold, it was sometimes difficult to trace the owners, because photos had to be taken of the paintings. That is what Gert Fopma did. The text relating to the life of Peter was written by Henri van der Zee and the texts accompanying the images by Ton van der Werf”. There is also an English edition. The English translation was done by Wim Proost and Shelagh Schikker. When the idea for the book was born and preparations could be made, it was decided to set up a foundation, which was named the Peter J Sterkenburg Maritime Paintings Foundation. Money was needed to realize the plans, and the foundation is a legal entity. Thanks to the donations of a large number of supporters it was possible to make a start and finally the book has arrived. It will be presented in the Harlinger museum Het Hannemahuis on 13 October. This will be done in the presence of interior minister Annemarie Jorritsma and probably the commander of the Royal Navy Cees van Duivendijk. In any case, he has promised to do so, and the commander of the Royal Netherlands Air Force is probably also present. The book will then be available at the Weever bookstore in Franeker and at the Hannemahuis. Anyone who reads the story about Peter Sterkenburg will get the idea of having known the painter personally because of the way it is written. The image that the writer evokes came about through conversations with close family, friends and acquaintances. It is the image of the man who was obsessed with painting, introverted, modest, did not seek publicity and thought that what he painted could always be better. A man who was anything but vain, sometimes to the annoyance of those close to him, who in his early years sometimes drove teachers and his mother to despair by often behaving differently from 'normal' and often withdrawing to occupy himself with his coin and stamp collection and making drawings. For example, as a student he came to school in a large American car, which was later prohibited by the principal and he absolutely took things very easy. Still, he made it to High School hands down. At school, he excelled in drawing caricatures of his teachers and his art teacher, who recognized his talent, had no problem with that. As a soldier, Peter was not a success either. Reasons for his superiors, who soon saw how well he could draw, to ask him to illustrate the garrison newspaper, make a mural in the officers' mess and design a garrison coat of arms. Then he knew for sure, he would earn his living with painting. For that reason, he went to the Ubbo Emmius Academy in Leeuwarden, but he had enough of it after a few weeks. Modern and abstract art was the fashion at that time, and those who preferred realistic drawing were not welcome. So Peter decided to go his own way, and with success. To put bread on the table, as a young man he painted dozens of paintings showing chickens. They sold like hot cakes for a few bobs. In the eighties special assignments started coming in, and he then moved to the small village of Zurich in the Northern part of the Netherlands. Thanks to a neighbor who traded in art, his work was exported to the US, where it became very popular. But soon, however, he started feeling like a kind of painting machine and wanted something different. He came into contact with a man who was an art dealer and who arranged an exhibition for him in Breukelen: 35 of the forty paintings were sold. Later on, the artist met Ton van der Werf, KLM director in Hong Kong in 1990. Through him he was able to exhibit there, and then more cities in the Far East followed. Peter was doing well, even Donald Trump owns a painting of him. Today they hang in buildings, ships and living rooms in various parts of the world, and Peter could have enjoyed painting for many more years if his life had not come to an unexpected end. 

De Telegraaf 18-10-2001 "Bound to the sea" 

Harlingen has finally done justice to one of its great descendants. Minister of Economic Affairs Annemarie Jorritsma, opened an exhibition of the paintings by Peter Sterkenburg in the local museum, Het Hannemahuis. The artist, who died at the age of 45 begin 2000, was without doubt considered the greatest maritime painter of the last century by some speakers.

Peter never received such recognition in his own country during his life. “He was celebrated in the Far East, for example in Hong Kong and Malaysia, and even in Australia,” says the man who in fact ’discovered’ him, Ton van der Werf. This former KLM manager in countries such as Malaysia and Ghana has devoted himself particularly to the painter in recent years. “He was my friend and a special person”.

The result is not only the exhibition of no fewer than 47 canvases, but also a biography, written by colleague Henri van der Zee and illustrated with almost 150 reproductions. The exhibition and book go together under the title ‘Bound to the sea’. It is a beautifully produced work and it is therefore no wonder that 4100 of the 5000 copies had already been sold. And even after the opening, the books flew out the door.
Given his reputation abroad, Minister Jorritsma, herself a true Frisian, called Peter Sterkenburg one of her best export products in a witty speech. She had met the painter in 1996 in Jakarta and opened one of his exhibitions there.
Curator Hugo ter Avest said he was very happy with the rehabilitation of his fellow townsman and said that this is the largest exhibition he has ever held. But the last painting by Sterkenburg is missing. It is a seascape of Amsterdam as it looked in the 18th century and it would hardly have fit in the museum. It is no less than seven meters long and hangs in one of the lounges of the ‘Amsterdam’, the new cruise ship of the Holland-America Line.

Mayor Chris Arlman, who was present with all his aldermen and modestly kept himself in the background - "I'm actually on holiday" - told me that it was a shame that the Frisians still show little interest in Sterkenburg, even now. "That's probably because they don't really consider Harlingen a Frisian city," he joked. One of the bystanders could not help but point out that this is partly the fault of the Harlingen themselves. "They look the other way too much, across the Afsluitdijk, to Holland".

It is an age-old discussion between the Frisians and the Dutch, whIch however, could not spoil the atmosphere at the reception in the beautiful historic garden of the museum on an unprecedentedly beautiful autumn day.

Leeuwarder Courant 26-10-2001 One third sea,Two thirds sky

Unknown in Harlingen but famous in the Far East. Maritime painter Peter J. Sterkenburg was a special case. He refused to call himself ‘artist’. He saw that as nonsense. Sterkenburg painted on request. His detailed, highly realistic works of ships and oceans caught on in the Asian business world. The born Harlinger passed away in Zurich (Friesland) last year. Museum Het Hannemahuis now devotes an exhibition to his maritime paintings.
When Sterkenburg turned inwards, nobody knew where his thoughts were taking him. Then he would sit in his living room, just behind the dike near Zurich, hand-roll his umpteenth heavy tobacco cigarette and say nothing. There was a fair chance that images of a tugboat approaching haunted his mind, or a ship in distress, or a shrimp cutter off the English coast or, perhaps, a bucket-chain dredger. Femke, the sister of the painter Peter J. Sterkenburg (1955-2000), who died last year, is still today guessing about the deepest emotions of her brother. “A special bloke”, she calls the taciturn man who had the size of a giant.  

Sterkenburg was 44 years old. He was found on Easter Sunday in his dike house: died of cardiac arrest, surrounded by his best friends: his maritime books and his paintings. During his lifetime, Sterkenburg, a native of Harlingen, made more than a thousand paintings of ships, seas and waves. An endless number of masts, cables, cargo, steam pipes, sails, and bows kept flowing from his brush.
Until the end of this month, Museum Het Hannemahuis will be showing nearly fifty paintings and seven sketches by Sterkenburg's hand. The exhibition was opened on October 16 by Minister of Economic Affairs Annemarie Jorritsma.
It is the first time that the work of the headstrong artist (dressed all his life in jeans, white T-shirt, goat wool socks and sandals) is shown in his hometown. Wry? His sister Femke shakes her head. “He did not have worries. He just continued to paint. To him recognition was never an issue. And he sold well, recognition or not. ”
Whereas Sterkenburg was completely unknown in the Netherlands, he was a celebrity in Asia. His photo featured in art supplements in Malaysian and Chinese newspapers and journalists lined up to interview the "famous painter from the Dutch seaport town called Harlingen". And although Sterkenburg was known as a modest, somewhat publicity-shy man, after his death a thick folder with Asian reviews, newspaper articles and photos was found. Secretly, the shy painter must have enjoyed all that attention, admiration and recognition, even though it happened so far from home.
In the Hannemahuis his paintings of boats, waves and seas are displayed in different rooms. Meanwhile, in the distance, the departure signal sounds of the ferry ‘Midsland’.  A little further on, trawlers from Urk sway on the waves in the fishing harbour. Any "ouwe seun", a nickname for the people from Harlingen, would without doubt enjoy the many maritime images of his fellow townsman.
The works – set in impressive gold-plated frames - exude an atmosphere of past glory. The Netherlands in the Golden Age: VOC ships off Asian coasts, fishing ships in fierce storms in the North Sea and tea clippers on the Pacific Ocean. Images of the past. There is no more sailing like that.
But in the imagination of Sterkenburg the ships never moored or disappeared. The painter felt like a fish in water in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He was able to perfectly portray the romantic-realistic style of that time. And, sure enough, that sold too! Through contact person Ton van der Werf, then general manager of KLM in Hong Kong, Sterkenburg's work received international recognition in the Asian branches of Smit Tak and KLM.  His maritime paintings were in great demand among large companies.
It was the perfect “Holland promotion” suitable for nostalgic Dutch people as well as curious Asian business partners. The Frisian painter became very popular and from that moment on was allowed to travel to the Far East regularly to gain new inspiration. “Sterkenburg was very good technically, but it is not elevated art,” says curator Hugo ter Avest of Het Hannemahuis, while stopping in front of the painting "Trapped in the ice".

The canvas features a whaler stuck in the ice of the North or South Pole. The painter made the image at the request of a client who had a stamp with a nice picture on it. Ter Avest: “He painted for a living. In the established art world that is of course not done.” Sterkenburg knew very well that he was a commercial painter. He did not see that as a problem, as he was averse to "artistic poppycock". "I'd rather sell than be famous." Impressionism? That was not his thing. Above all else "it had to be right." An endearing stance.
That is why the painter did not finish his education at the Ubbo Emmius Academy in Leeuwarden. The Telegraaf-reading, car-loving and cigar-smoking Sterkenburg didn’t like all that fuss around modern art. “That Academy was total nonsense,” he later told friends. Sterkenburg's formula was simple: the details of the ships had to be correct. And then: one third sea, two thirds sky. 
The nicest, most interesting paintings, however, do not show old VOC ships, but depict the modern Star Ferries of Hong Kong or a Chinese cargo ship at Kai Tak airport where skyscrapers reach the sky. 
The romantic, almost sentimental, maritime passion is linked to modern life in these contemporary paintings by Sterkenburg. That convinces and has a refreshing effect. The old familiar formula of "one third sea, two thirds sky" is being revived.
                                                                                             KIRSTEN VAN SANTEN  

The exhibition in Het Hannemahuis on the Voorstraat in Harlingen can be seen until November 24. The exhibition includes a catalog "Bound to the sea" by Henri van der Zee and Ton van der Werf with photos by Gert Fopma. A publication of the Peter J. Sterkenburg Maritime Paintings Foundation. f 69.95.

Article in the magazine De Blauwe Wimpel 19-11-2001. 

The Dutch text was translated into English. Click here to download.

Special sea views of Sterkenburg. Article in Magazine In Friesland Uit, nov/dec 2001  

The Frisian painter Peter J. Sterkenburg is without doubt one of the most prominent maritime painters of the 20th century. He passed away last year at the age of just 44. The artist, who lived in Zurich near Harlingen, was so successful in the last years of his life that his paintings were already sold before he finished them.

That appreciation did him good, but he shunned publicity and preferred to stay in the background. Until 16 November, an exhibition of the work of Peter Sterkenburg can be seen in the municipal museum 't Hannemahuis in Harlingen. About fifty of his works have been brought together in this exhibition. On this occasion a book was

published containing a biography and more than a hundred colour images of his work. Museum ‘t Hannernahuîs also has a collection of tile works, silver, the Vestdijk room and a number of ship models and paintings.
Open: Monday to Friday from 1.30 pm to 5 pm.

Harlinger Courant 16-01-2004

On 16 January 2004, the Harlinger Courant published an article about Peter j Sterkenburg. 

Ships that vanish behind the horizon are out of sight, but they are still there. 

By Jan Houter 

Vlieland- Ton van der Werf spoke these words when he commemorated maritime painter Peter J Sterkenburg at his funeral. Appropriate words, apt words for a wonderfully talented artist who suddenly, much too young, at the age of 44, passed away in his home in the Frisian village of Zurich. That happened on April 23, 2000. 

A painter who, thanks to Ton and Marga van der Werf, completely broke through in the Far East. He, Ton van der Werf, now former general manager of KLM in Hong Kong, was firmly convinced from the very start when he saw Peter's work and realized that a great talent had become a great artist. Together with his wife Marga, he had to use a lot of persuasion in 1990 to get the modest Frisian to Hong Kong. It worked out well and in ten years Peter Sterkenburg's name rose in the ranks of the very great. Rightly so! 

When I stay in the hotels “Anna Casparii” and “Zeezicht” in Harlingen, I always look at his paintings with great admiration. The person who had painted these canvases did not interest me at all at first. I just liked them. Especially those of the little “Vlieland” in the ice off the city of Harlingen. During the severe winter period of February 1942, the ship became stuck and the passengers disembarked on foot across the ice. I asked the former owner of “Anna Casparii”, Tjerk Zandstra, if he wanted to sell the canvas from his collection. As expected his answer was NO. André Postma of Hotel "Zeezicht" also has a splendid collection hanging in his restaurant. In the beautiful book “Bound to the sea” written in 2001 on behalf of the “Peter J Sterkenburg Maritime Paintings Foundation” by Henri van der Zee and Ton van der Werf and provided with excellent photos by Gert Fopma, one can read, among other things: “In the restaurants of Anna Casparii, and hotel “Zeezicht” hang numerous of paintings for which the painter was often paid for in meals”. These hoteliers will certainly remember with great satisfaction that Peter Sterkenburg made a deal with them to make a painting in exchange for a good meal instead of paying in cash. Both told me with appropriate pride about the realistic canvases they have hanging. They were happy with the canvases but did not realize at the time that Peter Sterkenburg's name would become so big and special. 

Holidays on Vlieland 

On the island of Vlieland I got to know Peter Sterkenburg's sister. Femke, wife of pilot Huub van Batum. She was on holiday on Vlieland and when I found out during a chance conversation that she was the sister of the painter I admired so much, I asked her if I could write a story about him for “Vlieland Magazine” and here is the result. 

Peter Sterkenburg was born on December 18, 1955, in Harlingen. His father, Joost Joshua, was a sailor. Several times the family stayed on holiday on Vlieland. Peter was known as a mischievous boy. There’s a recurring anecdote in the family. “After an exhausting day with Peter and his sister Tanja, during a holiday on Vlieland, both were finally in bed and mother Ans could enjoy a drink in peace. Soon, however, she saw passers-by on the street smiling upward. She ran up the stairs to see what was going on and found Peter busily squeezing yet another tube of toothpaste in the direction of the amused audience. Then he must already have gotten the right feeling to handle tubes. In 1962 father Joost decided to say goodbye to the sea and moved with the family to Haamstede in the province of Zeeland, where Joost was put in charge of “Hotel De Witte van Haamstede”. 

However, that lasted only a few years. The family wanted to settle in the north again, but unexpectedly father died at the age of only 36. Mother and children then went to live in Franeker, in the province of Friesland. Regular holidays were again held on Vlieland, now in their own tent house named “Grietje”. One day a sand sculpture competition was organized. Peter was wildly enthusiastic and immediately enrolled. With the help of his siblings, he made a beautiful sphinx, which won him the first prize. The price though, a carton of lemonade, was a huge disappointment. 

The beginning. 

His talent for drawing was already noticed during high school, but Peter wasn't sure what he wanted to do. He fulfilled his military service with the 47th Armored Infantry Battalion in the village of Havelte. His talent did not go unnoticed by his officers, however. Almost out of desperation, because they didn't quite know what to do with this recruit, they gave him some painting assignments. Thus he became the first and only battalion painter as far as we know. He painted army scenes on the walls of an officers' mess and designed a coat of arms for his battalion, the Menno van Coehoorn. After his military service, his studies at the Ubbo Emmius Academy in Leeuwarden turned out to be a flop. After a while, he became bored by what he was taught. He thought the lessons were quite silly. So he decided to develop himself and figure out his own style. To make a living however, he started with serial work. By making paintings depicting chickens. They sold like hotcakes for a few tenners. Gradually, modest orders also came in. The above book describes everything about Peter's short but exciting career so I will not elaborate further on that. In addition to Ton and Marga van der Werf, art dealer Aard Koster has also been of great importance to Peter's development. He recognized Peter’s talent immediately. In May 1985 Koster decided to organize a real exhibition which showed Peter's work for the first time in his art gallery in Schoorl. Of the 40 canvases, 35 were sold! For the first time, Peter felt that he was in good hands. And Koster remarked: “I will never find such an artist again”. 


A series of setbacks would hit the family at the end of the twentieth century. In 1998, Peter's second father, Johan van Drooge, passed away. On January 19, 2000, Peter's brother, Rob, died just as unexpectedly after a heart attack at the age of 41. A few months later, on April 23, 2000, brother-in-law Huub found Peter lifeless in his home at the bottom of the dike in Zurich. Grief-stricken, mother Ans at the age of 72, died a day later, April 24. 

In 2001 an exhibition was held at museum “Het Hannemahuis” in Harlingen, dedicated to the work of this exceptionally talented painter. The exhibition showed what a diversity of paintings he has made. Works that were distributed all over the world in less than ten years. In addition to a man such as Donald Trump, the Holland America Line, Smit International and the Maritime Heritage Foundation have recognized his work and purchased one or more "Sterkenburgs". He was so successful in the last years of his life that his paintings were sold before they were completed. On a list in his studio were the special assignments he still had to make. Peter Sterkenburg has undoubtedly become one of the most important Dutch maritime painters of the twentieth century. Those who have paintings made by this humble artist are happy owners. 

Another painting was discovered.

After reading a story about Peter Sterkenburg in Vlieland Magazine no. 3 of 2002, the former Vlielander Joop Matser, now living in Doorwerth, contacted us some time ago. He reported that he and his wife Tine, after reading the story, had curiously walked over to a painting that hung in the hallway and discovered to their amazement and happiness that they had a real “Sterkenburg” hanging on the wall. They bought the canvas in The Hague a few years ago. The gallery owner in question had persuaded the Matsers to buy the canvas. Because it did not quite fit in with the atmosphere of the living room, the canvas was hung in the hallway. Now it adorns the living room of the family again. The canvas is 48 cm. wide and 38 cm high and this report will certainly also be a welcome message for the “Stichting Maritime Paintings Peter J Sterkenburg”. Who else has a hitherto unknown painting by Peter Sterkenburg? Please contact Jan Houter, tel.0562-451920. 

Note: The book “Bound to the sea” is sold out in Dutch. Enthusiasts can still buy English-language copies. Well worth it! The address of the Foundation: H Potma, Het Hoochhout 5, 8801PE Franeker. The book costs 35 Euros.


Thanks to the Harlinger Courant.

From Omaha to the Scheldt  01-04-2004

The author, Professor John Forfar, MC, FRSE, (1916-2013), was the Medical Officer attached to the 47 Royal Marine Commando throughout it brief history. This account is based on his and the few survivors’ recollections of the fierce battles fought on the shores of France, Belgium and Holland. The cover of the book shows a painting by Peter Sterkenburg depicting the landing on Walcheren in 1944.

Exhibition of Peter Sterkenburg's work in the Westfries museum. Harlinger Courant  29-06-2004

HOORN -Yesterday evening a special exhibition of paintings by the maritime painter Peter J. Sterkenburg, who died in 2000 at the age of 44, was opened in the Westfries museum in Hoorn. More than twenty paintings, mostly from private collections, have been brought together in this beautiful museum building.

Watched by an interested audience vice-admiral retired, Esquire H. van Foreest, performed the official opening. As a member of the board of KNRM, he praised the fantastic work of this painter, still unknown to many, and proudly pointed out that there is also a large canvas by Sterkenburg in the office of the director of the rescue company. The chairman of the Peter J. Sterkenburg Maritime Painting Foundation, gave an account of Peter's life and what the Foundation does. This is the second exhibition of work by the artist who died much too early. In 2001 the first was held in the Hannemahuis in Harlingen. That exhibition was a resounding success. This second exhibition in Hoorn where also 'new' work by Peter can be admired will certainly not be the last one. The exhibition, which also features historical ship models by Ger van Beilen from Schagen, will last until 1 October.

Wieringermeerbode  20-07-2004 ‘Bound to the sea’ In the Westfries Museum

Hoorn - The artist Peter Sterkenburg is without doubt one of the most important maritime painters of the twentieth century. He was ‘Bound to the sea’,
which is also the title of the exhibition in the Westfries Museum in Hoorn, which is on view until 29 August.

"As if the waves were rolling, the clouds were moving and the sails rippled in the breeze.." is how an admirer of the Frisian maritime painter Peter J. Sterkenburg (1955-2000) described the work of this gifted artist who died four years ago at a young age.
What is special about Sterkenburg is indeed the realistic way in which he painted sea and sky. The artist's work was already so much in demand in the last years of his life that a cupboard door in his studio was littered with notes bearing commissions for paintings he was still supposed to make. His paintings have garnered much appreciation in America and the Far East for many years, but were only known to a small circle in his home country.
Sterkenburg was self-taught. After high school where he already excelled in drawing, he did spend a blue Monday at the academy in Leeuwarden, but because abstract art was of paramount importance there, he quit after a lesson 'finger painting' and decided to develop his own style. The first years of his career as a painter were difficult. He devoted himself to a kind of serial work and continuously produced small paintings with chickens that he sold for a few bob. It was completely commercial work, but Sterkenburg later said that during that time he learned to use a brush and mix colours. A neighbor who dealt in art saw something in the young man and gave him a picture of a painting with ships from the Dutch Golden Age and asked him to make something similar, but in his own style.

This was the beginning of Sterkenburg's love for ships, water and sky and also explains why his paintings from his so-called early 'brown' period strongly resemble the paintings of illustrious seventeenth-century predecessors such as Jan van Gooyen and Ludolph Backhuysen. A visit to Hong Kong, where he was invited by KLM for a solo exhibition, turned out to be of great influence. The exhibition was sold out within two weeks and this also resulted in seventeen follow-up assignments. This was his big break.

The orders poured in, culminating in a commission from VFD, the architectural firm that furnishes the cruise ships of the Holland America Line. This work, no less than seven meters in length, represents the river IJ with VOC ships off Amsterdam. Unfortunately, the artist was unable to finish it as he died aged just 44 the day before Easter in 2000.

The Westfries Museum in Hoorn can be found on the Rode Steen and is open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Sailing ships in front of a harbour entrance, painted in 1997.

Peter J. Sterkenburg, maritime painter (1955-2000). Noordhollands Dagblad Monday 2 August 2004

Bound to the sea
HOORN - 'As if the waves were rolling, the clouds were moving and the sails rippled in the breeze…’, is how an admirer of the Frisian maritime painter Peter J Sterkenburg (1955-2000) described the work of this gifted artist who died four years ago at a young age. What is special about Sterkenburg is indeed the very realistic way in which he painted sea and sky. The artist's work was so admired during the last years of his life that a cabinet door in his studio was strewn with notes bearing commissions for paintings he still should have done. His paintings have received a lot of appreciation in America and the Far East for many years, but were only known in our country in a small circle.

Peter Sterkenburg was self-taught. After high school where he already excelled in drawing, he did spend a blue Monday at the academy in Leeuwarden, but because abstract art was of paramount importance there, he decided to give up 'finger painting' after one lesson and decided to develop his own style. The first years of his career as a painter were difficult. He started with a kind of serial work, which meant that he almost continuously produced small canvases with chickens that he sold for a few quid.

It was entirely commercial work, but Sterkenburg later said that during that time he learned to use a brush and mix colours. A neighbour who dealt in art saw something in the young man and gave him a picture of a painting with 17th century ships and asked him to make something similar, but in his own style.

This was the beginning of Sterkenburg's love for ships, water and sky and also explains why his paintings from his so-called 'brown' early period strongly resemble the paintings of illustrious 17th-century predecessors such as Jan van Gooyen and Ludolph Backhuysen. Although his Paintings became increasingly lighter in touch over the years, a visit to Hong Kong, where he was invited by KLM for a solo exhibition, proved to be of great influence. There he saw light that was different from that in the Netherlands, and he incorporated it into a new generation of paintings that stand out because of the special effect of light and shadow.

That exhibition in Hong Kong, which sold out within two weeks, and resulted in a further seventeen commissions, was his big breakthrough. Later exhibitions followed in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Jakarta and Sydney that were just as successful as in Hong Kong and his name was now also becoming known in the Netherlands.

The orders poured in, culminating in an order from VFD, the architectural firm that furnishes the cruise ships of the Holland-America Line. This work, no less than seven meters in length, represents the IJ with VOC ships off Amsterdam. Unfortunately the artist could not finish it because he died, only 44 years old, on Easter day in 2000.

The artist Peter Sterkenburg is without doubt one of the most important maritime painters of the 20th century. He was 'Bound to the sea', which is also the title of the exhibition in the Westfries Museum in Hoorn, which shows the versatility of the artist starting this summer until 29 August. The beautiful book 'Bound to the sea' , which contains more than a hundred pictures of his paintings is also available here for 29.90 euros. His work can also be admired on the website
Westfries Museum, Rode Steen 1, Hoorn. Tel. 0229-280028, Fax 0229-280029, Open: Mon.till Fri. 11 am-5pm, Sat. and Sun. 2 pm-5pm. Closed: Monday, August 16.

Harlinger Courant 03-06-2005

ZURICH \ HARLINGEN On Wednesday afternoon, mayor TH.R. Piersma of Wonseradeel and mayor Chris Arlman of Harlingen unveiled a special memorial plaque at the Caspar de Roblesdijk in Zurich. This in the presence of many guests, as well as the artist Lia Krol from Erichem, Gelderland who created the bronze plaque. The plaque is in memory of the Frisian painter Peter Sterkenburg, who died in 2000 and lived here from 1987 until his death.

On behalf of the board of the 'Peter J. Sterkenburg Maritime Paintings Foundation', chairman Ton van der Werf welcomed the many attendees. The foundation was established in 2001 with the aim of bringing the work of this painter, who sadly died far too young, to the attention of a wide audience. The foundation was set up by Peter's youngest sister Femke, who also passed away at a young age last year. According to Van der Werf, Peter Sterkenburg was a very special talent. "I dare to predict that he will become the best maritime artist in the Netherlands in the 20th century, as soon as more people will learn about him."
Sterkenburg himself was very modest and did not seek publicity, which means that he is hardly known in his own country, except in maritime circles. In contrast, his paintings are considered very special abroad, especially in the Far East. The activities of the foundation are funded by the sale of, among other things, the biography 'Bound to the sea' written by Henri van der Zee. He lives in London and came over especially for this occasion. The publication about Peter Sterkenburg also contains his paintings, with the last addition being the beautiful view of Harlingen, which will soon be available on the website

The sea
On December 19, 1955, Peter Sterkenburg was born in Harlingen, and he was always attracted by the sea. Perhaps this had to do with the profession of his father, who was an officer in the merchant navy. In addition to father, mother and Peter, the Sterkenburg family also consisted of the daughters Tanja and Femke. Later when father had left the merchant navy, the family moved to Zeeland where father got a job in a hotel in Haamstede.
Unfortunately, he died at the age of 36 and Peter's mother decided to return to Friesland. They settled in Franeker. Later at the age of 12 Peter went to the Simon Vestdijk Rijksscholengemeenschap in Harlingen. His talent for drawing became more and more evident. After his military service he decided to study art at the Academy Ubbo Emmius in Leeuwarden. Since the teachers were only interested in modern art, he did not feel at home here and left school. To earn some money, he painted depictions of chickens which was eagerly sought after by the public.
In the eighties he moved to Zurich, Friesland, where he had found a house with a studio on the Caspar de Roblesdijk. Because of his love for the sea, seascapes were favorite subjects for him. In 1998, he started receiving assignments from the Netherlands, but he was already very successful abroad. Unfortunately Peter Sterkenburg died suddenly on January 19, 2000, from heart failure. He was only 44 years old. His mother also died a few days later at the age of 72.

The unveiled plaque reads: "This is where maritime painter Peter J. Sterkenburg lived and worked from 1987 to 2000." Furthermore, the face of Peter Sterkenburg is clearly depicted with birds, a boat and waves.

In This Hour 01-01-2006

Novel written by Rudolf van Reest (pseudonym of K.C. Spronsen) about the Second World War, the landing of the Allied Forces on the Dutch island of Walcheren and the flood disaster in 1953.

The cover of this English translation of the Dutch novel shows a painting by Peter Sterkenburg depicting the landing on Walcheren in 1944.



Magazine Vastwerken december 2010

(Official organ of the AVOM General Association of Former Staff of the Royal Netherlands Navy) of December 2010 contains an extensive article about Peter J Sterkenburg.
Download the article here.


Magazine Spiegel der Zeilvaart 'Bound to the sea, Peter J. Sterkenburg' 10-01-2011

In SdZ 20I I.IO, artist Gert Jan Veenstra from Offingawier near the Frisian lake Sneekermeer mentioned that he was inspired by his friend Peter Sterkenburg from the village of Zurich, Friesland. Gert Jan decided to become a professional artist because of Peter. Sterkenburg died much too early, but as a maritime painter he still deserves special the attention. In 2001, more than a year after the painter's death, a wonderful book about the life and work of Peter Sterkenburg, was published entitled: 'Bound to the sea, Peter J. Sterkenburg, a painter of seascapes’. Fortunately for the enthusiast, this book is still available, but let's start at the beginning. Peter was born in December 1955 in the Frisian city of Harlingen. Here he grew up for the first seven years of his life until his father, who was a sailor, came ashore and the family moved to Haamstede. The Sterkenburg children loved this place. They had the time of their lives in the woods and dunes. However, the happiness lasted only a short while, because after a few years father Sterkenburg suddenly died of a heart attack at the age of 36. Mother returned to the North with three children and Franeker became their new home. Peter disliked being in the limelight. He loved to collect things and make drawings. At school there were only a few subjects in which he excelled, which were sociology, history and drawing. He also developed a talent for trading coins and cars. There was nothing to indicate that Peter would become a celebrated marine painter. In military service he was called upon whenever there was something to paint. At that time he also decided to do something in art. After his military tour of duty he enrolled in the academy in Leeuwarden. This proved to be a disappointment, because the lessons only dealt with modern art and Peter wanted to delve into classical art. It was then that he decided to become a professional artist. In the beginning, he painted two paintings a day, which he sold for a few bob. This improved his technique and gave him an understanding of paint, colours and canvases. Slowly but surely the first special commissions started coming in. His family background gave him an affinity with ships, so he focused more and more on painting maritime objects. During one of his first major exhibitions, which was specially organized for him by art gallery Koster in Schoorl, 35 of the 40 paintings were sold at attractive prices. He continued to work for Koster, and made about forty canvases a year. In the meantime he studied works by old masters for whom he had a great admiration. English marine painter Montague Dawson, Willem van der Velde and Willem van Mesdag were his favourites. His star was rising, and even though his paintings rose in price, the demand for his canvases remained high. The beautifully illustrated book we talked about describes all the ups and downs in Peter's life. Especially his depictions of the sea show that Peter studied the old masters. Yet every work is a typical Sterkenburg, easily recognizable by its style and colour palette. 


Marine Painter 

Furthermore, this writer knows from his own experience that Sterkenburg set high standards for his material. A supplier of canvas and canvas stretchers, Henk Lever from the province of South Holland, always said to me: “you are just as difficult as Peter Sterkenburg from Zurich, somewhere in Friesland. He also always wants special linen." And adding: “But he is doing very well”. And then he talked about Peter's successes. The book describes that Peter came into contact with Ton van der Werf from KLM in 1992. It resulted in a solo exhibition in Hong Kong. The exhibition was a great success, because twenty paintings were sold in the first two weeks. The number of orders, from people who wanted more paintings from Peter, grew. During that time, he did not shy away from any assignment. The book contains harbour views and war scenes, but in between there are always beautiful paintings from the Dutch maritime past. Ships from his area such as shrimpers, tjalk boats and botters were popular subjects. Whalers and proud merchantmen from times past, often on large canvases, are proof of his interest in history. Such a huge canvas would also be Peter's last. As if in a dramatic ending, Sterkenburg was commissioned in 1999 to make a large painting for the Holland America Line for its newest cruise ship, the ‘Amsterdam’, which was to be launched in 2000. This painting on an aluminium surface of 110 cm high and no less than 7 meters long would hang in one of the ship’s lounges. It was supposed to depict a naval scene in the 17th century. The HAL paid one hundred thousand guilders for this assignment. Peter would have nine months to finish the job. It turned out to be quite an undertaking, for which Peter needed a large space. From Johan Pollema, a local fish bait monger he rented a small building in Zurich that had served as a church for the workers during the construction of the Afsluitdijk. Peter set it up as a studio and got to work. Those close to Peter are convinced that this assignment, among other things, would mean a breakthrough in his career. But they also noticed that he was under a lot of stress from this big commission. The fear of not meeting the deadline weighed heavily on him. After painting for six months and before the painting was finished, the artist died. The painting was eventually completed by a restorer, but it is perhaps one of Peter's masterpieces. After his death in 2000, the ‘Peter J Sterkenburg Maritime Paintings Foundation’ was established. A foundation with the aim of bringing this Frisian maritime artist, who died much too young, to the attention of a large audience. This is done, among other things, by assisting in organizing exhibitions, giving publicity and interviews as well as providing information. Peter has left behind a magnificent oeuvre. We can see a large part of his paintings in the beautiful book written by Henri van der Zee and Ton van der Werf and published by the aforementioned foundation. The book has a hard (laminated) cover and contains, in addition to a biography of the artist, more than a hundred images in colour. The dimensions of the book are 31.5x24.5cm. An English edition is also available. The price is € 34.50. 


William Erland 

Lichtjes in je ogen (Lights in your eyes). Originally published: October 21, 2011

A series of sixteen Dutch Christmas stories written by different authors. The cover of this paperback features the "Winter Landscape" that Peter Sterkenburg painted in 1988 as a gift to the then ice master of the village of Zurich in Friesland, where the artist lived and worked at the time.



"As if the waves were alive, the clouds moved and the wind swept the sails ...."

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