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Reinier Nooms (Zeeman)
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Reinier Nooms, called “Zeeman” [Seaman], was one of the most distinguished marine artists of 17th-century Holland. A painter, etcher and draftsman, he also created architectural views of Amsterdam, Paris and various seaports. Little is known about Nooms’s life. His birth date is estimated based on two documents from 1658, one listing him as being 33 years old and the other as 34 years old. He signed his works “Zeeman,” leading to the assumption that he must have worked as a seaman, but no documentation has been found to support this hypothesis. He was certainly familiar with the sea and ships, given the accurate representations of both in his art. There is no documentation regarding his artistic training. Some scholars have attributed a 1643 drawing of the old Amsterdam Town Hall to him. Nooms was in Paris from 1650 until 1652. One scholar speculates that he may have trained in the Parisian workshop of Matthieu van Plattenberg (ca. 1608-1660), a Flemish painter and printmaker who worked there, based on the stylistic similarities between prints by the two artists. The earliest works securely attributed to Nooms are a series of etched twelve seascapes and landscapes with a title page (Holl. 73-85), published in Paris in 1650 by Jacques van Merle (1616-1682). Van Merle published a second series of etchings by Nooms, Quelques navires (Several Sailing-vessels and Merchantmen, Holl. 88-95) in 1652, again in Paris. Nooms also painted views of the Louvre palace at this time. He then returned to Amsterdam, where he published an etching of the burning of the Town Hall on July 7, 1652 (Holl. 9). He was married on April 6, 1653 to Maria Jansdr. Mosijn from Bruges, the sister of the engraver Michiel Mosijn (ca. 1630-?), with whom Nooms collaborated on two prints published in 1654. A drawing of a portion of the Louvre dated 1656 indicates Nooms was in again Paris for at least a brief time. He may have been accompanied by his brother-in-law, who subsequently worked in Paris as an engraver. Also that year, the series of etchings by Nooms, Quelqe port de Meer (Various Seaports, Holl. 96-103) was published in Amsterdam by Dancker Danckerts (ca. 1633-1666). The Mediterranean settings of these views suggest that Nooms must have traveled there at some previous time. Some sources assert that Nooms worked for the Elector Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg and traveled to Berlin, based on a drawing from 1657, but no documentation of such a trip exists. The Dutch navy mounted a punitive expedition against the pirates based on the Barbary Coast of the Mediterranean Sea in 1661. Paintings and drawings by Nooms suggest that he was among the artists that accompanied the fleet. Some of the sketches probably provided the inspiration for the very large drawings Nooms made of Spanish and North African ports for the 33-volume atlas created by the Amsterdam lawyer van der Hem (1621-1678) (Austrian National Library, Vienna) and illustrated by the best topographical artists of the day. In addition to maritime scenes, Nooms is known for his accurate representations of buildings and city views, including several series of views of Amsterdam and its ships and a series of views of Paris and its environs. Nooms died in 1664; an inventory of his widow’s estate in 1667 when she remarried lists books on navigation, lending support to the suggestion that Nooms once worked as a sailor. (TNB 11/2012) Selected bibliography: Levesque, Catherine. “Reinier Nooms, Called Zeeman,” in Bartsch, Adam, et al. The Illustrated Bartsch. vol. 6 comm, pp. 109-110, New York: Abaris Books, 1986. Robinson, William W. Bruegel to Rembrandt: Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection. Exhibition catalog, pp. 180-181. Cambridge: Harvard University Art Museums, 2002. de Scheemaker, Jeroen. “Introduction,” in Hollstein, F. W. H. Hollstein’s Dutch & Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts, 1450-1700, Reinier Zeeman. Vols. LVI & LVII. Jeroen de Scheemaker (compiler), Dieuwke de Hoop Scheffer (ed.). Rotterdam: Sound & Vision Interactive; Amsterdam: Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, 2001.