Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Jan van Goyen, Dutch (Leiden, Netherlands 1596 - 1656 The Hague, Netherlands)
On the Seashore
Work Type
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Black chalk and gray wash on cream antique laid paper, framing line in black chalk
14.3 x 21.7 cm (5 5/8 x 8 9/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: lower left, black chalk: VG 1652
  • watermark: Horn in shield with crown, and MG below; variant of Churchill 315 (1623– 95); a similar mark appears on other Van Goyen drawings of 1652 (see Beck, H.-U. 1972– 91, vol. 1, p. 329, fig. 18)

  • gallery label: former mount, Keppel Gallery label, printed and inscribed in brown ink: [label proper] From FREDERICK KEPPEL & CO., / Rare Engravings and Etchings / No. 4 East 39th Street, New York. / No. H 7301 [brown ink] Sketch on the Seashore / original drawing by Jan van Goyen / born Leyden 1596 - Died Hague 1666. Bought in 1912. / Pencil drawing / on thin old / paper. / Beautiful / atmospheric / quality.
  • inscription: verso, lower left, black chalk: 17
  • inscription: verso, lower left, graphite: A71193
  • inscription: verso, lower center, graphite: 64
  • inscription: verso, lower right, black chalk: EDCV
  • inscription: Former mount, graphite: Dr. Martin says / fine, undoubted Van Goyen / March 30/21
Perhaps F. Adama van Scheltema, sold; [Muller, Amsterdam, 11-14 June 1912, lot 108, repr.]; to [Otto Gutekunst, London.] [Frederick Keppel & Co., New York, 1912] sold; to Meta and Paul J. Sachs, Cambridge, Mass., (L. 2091, without his mark); Bequest of Meta and Paul J. Sachs, 1965.204
Published Text
Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums
William W. Robinson and Susan Anderson
Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2016)

Catalogue entry no. 45 by William W. Robinson:

With Pieter de Molijn (2011.514) and Salomon van Ruysdael, the remarkably productive painter and draftsman Jan van Goyen ranks among the leading exponents of the “tonal phase” of Dutch landscape painting. After his initial training with no fewer than five different masters in Leiden and Hoorn, Van Goyen spent a year (1617–18) in Haarlem with Esaias van de Velde, his most influential teacher (1979.62, 2015.169, 2015.170). He returned to Leiden and remained there until 1632, when he settled permanently in the Hague. In the late 1620s and 1630s, Van Goyen adopted the innovations of Haarlem landscapists Molijn, Van Ruysdael, and Pieter van Santvoort, painting dunes, rivers, beaches, cottages along country roads, and winter scenes in a monochromatic palette of finely modulated browns, grays, and greens. He later added panoramas, marine vistas, and views of cities to his repertory.2

Throughout his career, Van Goyen produced finished drawings intended for sale. About eight hundred survive, dating from the middle of the 1620s to the last year of his life. The vast majority bear his signature or the monogram VG and a date. During certain periods he concentrated his efforts on this kind of work rather than on painting; one such time was from 1651 through 1653, when he turned out some 350 finished drawings but relatively few paintings.3 Although he used colored washes in a few of his early works of this type, during the 1630s and early 1640s Van Goyen executed them in black chalk.4 From 1647 on, he combined black chalk with a judicious gray or—in a few sheets from 1651—brown wash to evoke shadows and to model forms. In many instances, he developed the compositions of his finished landscapes—both paintings and drawings—from cursory studies jotted down in sketchbooks during his travels. He probably sold many of the drawings in series, some supplied with a title page, but nearly all these suites have been broken up and can no longer be reconstructed.5

Van Goyen signed and dated more than fifty finished drawings, including On the Seashore, in 1652. It was one of his most productive years for works of this kind, although far more survive from 1651 and 1653. In addition to coastal scenes, his finished landscapes of 1652 depict villages, dunes, rivers, and inland waterways. At least three other drawings dated that year are on papers with a watermark similar to that in the Harvard sheet.6

The site depicted in the Harvard drawing is not identifiable, and may be a composite view rather than an actual location; low towers of the type shown here figure in several of Van Goyen’s scenes of the Dutch coast and inland waterways (Fig. 1).7 The artist’s annotation on a sketchbook page identifies one such structure as a “sea beacon” (zeebaken).8 Precursors of lighthouses, these installations provided and maintained navigational signals. To mark the shoreline for mariners sailing in the dark, an iron basket with burning fuel would have been hoisted with the aid of a pulley up a pole like the one that rises from the balcony in the drawing. In other such works by Van Goyen, the pole stands apart from the tower, in some instances beside a cannon (see Fig. 1). The latter did not serve a defensive purpose, but was fired periodically during a fog to warn shipping of the proximity of shallow water.

A copy of the Harvard drawing is in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.9


1 (This note refers to the dimensions.) The sheet dimensions include unworked margins of a centimeter or more outside the framing lines on all four sides. The image measures 121 × 196 mm. The latter dimensions are close to those of most of Van Goyen’s finished drawings of 1652, which have presumably been trimmed to the image and measure in the range of 115/120 × 190/200 mm.

2 Hans‑Ulrich Beck, “Goyen, Jan (Josephsz.) van,” in Jane Turner, ed., The Dictionary of Art (New York, 1996), vol. 13, pp. 255–59.

3 Hans‑Ulrich Beck, Jan van Goyen 1596–1656: Ein Oeuvreverzeichnis (Amsterdam and Doornspijk, 1972–91), vol. 1, p. 51, and cats. 195–557e, pp. 69–188, vol. 3, cats. 195–557c, pp. 56–96.

4 For a work of 1627 with extensive colored washes, see Marijn Schapelhouman and Peter Schatborn, Dutch Drawings of the Seventeenth Century in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam: Artists Born between 1580 and 1600; Catalogue of Dutch and Flemish drawings in the Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, vol. 6 (Amsterdam and London, 1998), vol. 1, cat. 130, p. 75, vol. 2, p. 97, fig. 130, and p. 246, color plate VI.

5 On Van Goyen’s black chalk drawings with gray or brown wash, see Beck (1972–91), vol. 1, pp. 51–53. For finished landscapes based on studies in his travel sketchbooks, see pp. 51–55. Regarding series and difficulties of reconstruction, see pp. 51–52.

6 For drawings dated 1652, see ibid., vol. 1, cats. 284–331a–m, pp. 102–116, and vol. 3, pp. 67–72, where cats. 297A, 301aA [sic], 303A, 311a, and 311A are additional drawings not catalogued in vol. 1. On drawings dated that year with watermarks similar to that of the Harvard work, see vol. 1, p. 329, fig. 18, and cat. 308, p. 109, cat. 316, p. 112, and cat. 324, pp. 114–15.

7 Jan van Goyen, River Landscape with a Tower (Fig. 1). Oil on panel. 40.6 × 53.2 cm (oval), signed and dated 1644. Saint Gallen, Kunstmuseum, G1997.4. Beck (1972–91), vol. 2, cat. 142, p. 70; vol. 3, cat. 142, p. 159, repr. For other drawings and paintings with similar towers, see idem, vol. 1, cats. 242, 288, and 502, vol. 2, cats. 415, 632, 704, 706, 735, and 757, vol. 3, cats. 142, 734, 761, 766, and 1168A.

8 Sotheby’s, New York, 16 January 1985, lot 289. Private collection, New York; Beck (1972–91), vol. 3, p. 19, and cat. 706A, not repr. The black chalk inscription Zeebaken te Petten has been reinforced with brown ink, but Beck accepts the authenticity of the original black chalk annotation. Petten is a village on the North Sea coast between Alkmaar and Den Helder. I am grateful to the owner for bringing this drawing to my attention and for supplying a photograph.

9 Copy after Jan van Goyen, Figures by a Coastal Watchtower, 1652. Black chalk and gray wash, 123 × 196 mm. Rijksmuseum, Rijksprentenkabinet, RP-T-1897-A-3406. Schapelhouman and Schatborn, vol. 1, cat. 197, p. 93, vol. 2, p. 119, fig. 197.

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Meta and Paul J. Sachs
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Agnes Mongan and Paul J. Sachs, Drawings in the Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, 1940), vol. 1, cat. no. 507, p. 268, repr. vol. 2, fig. 260

An Exhibition of Dutch and Flemish Drawings and Watercolors, checklist, Unpublished (1954), cat. no. 44, p. 11

Agnes Mongan, Memorial Exhibition: Works of Art from the Collection of Paul J. Sachs [1878-1965]: given and bequeathed to the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, exh. cat., Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, 1965), cat. no. 25, n.p., repr., and p. 206

Fogg Art Museum Acquisitions, 1965, 1966, p. 31

Hans-Ulrich Beck, Jan van Goyen 1596-1656, Davaco Publishers (Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1972 - 1987), vol. 1, cat. no. 289, p. 103, repr., and under fig. 18, p. 329, and vol. 3, cat. no. 289, p. 67

Curtis O. Baer, ed., Seventeenth Century Dutch Landscape Drawings and Selected Prints from American Collections, exh. cat., Vassar College Art Gallery (Poughkeepsie, NY, 1976), cat. no. 24, pp. 14, 15 and 42, repr. fig. 24

Geneviève Monnier and Bernice Rose, Drawing, Skira Rizzoli (Geneva, Switzerland/New York, NY, 1979), p. 269, repr. p. 167

Konrad Oberhuber, European Master Drawings of Six Centuries from the Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., National Museum of Western Art (Tokyo, 1979), cat. no. 49, n.p., repr. pl. 49

William W. Robinson and Susan Anderson, Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2016), p. 15; cat. no. 45, pp. 161-163, repr. p. 162; watermark p. 377

Exhibition History

Drawings from the Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard University (Collected by Paul J. Sachs), Century Club, New York, 05/12/1947 - 09/25/1947

An Exhibition of Dutch and Flemish Drawings and Watercolors, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/01/1954 - 04/30/1954

Memorial Exhibition: Works of Art from the Collection of Paul J. Sachs [1878-1965] Given and Bequeathed to the Fogg Art Museum Harvard University Cambridge, Massachusetts, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 11/15/1965 - 01/15/1966; Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York, 12/19/1966 - 02/26/1967

Seventeenth Century Dutch Landscape Drawings and Selected Prints from American Collections, Vassar College Art Gallery, Poughkeepsie, 03/28/1976 - 05/07/1976

European Master Drawings of Six Centuries from the Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 11/03/1979 - 12/16/1979

Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/21/2016 - 08/14/2016

Subjects and Contexts

Dutch, Flemish, & Netherlandish Drawings

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