Willem Gillisz. Kool was a Haarlem painter of beach and landscape views in the style of Jan van Goyen; this is evident in the brownish or monochrome tonality of his works, as well as in the assurance with which staffage is introduced. Kool also displays excellent aerial perspective, and for this reason he, at times, includes prominent buildings in his compositions.
Our painting, Fish Market on the Beach, is a charming quayside scene of peasants gathering with goods to sell to the gentry on horseback, offering a lively market scene set against the ocean. The composition is filled with interesting figures, fishing boats, and animals, creating never ending visual stimulation. The figures, boats, and various merchandise occupy the landscape in a colorful array of activity: merchants offer fish and produce from large baskets while customers examine the arriving goods. The artist communicates the spontaneity and energy of a Dutch marketplace, filling his composition with rich details. Despite the slightly chaotic feel of the scene, the painting is nonetheless carefully structured, and organized to guide the viewer’s focus and create a dramatic sense of depth.
Kool strategically positions the figures and objects so that the viewer’s eye may move easily around the space, focusing on the central scene and then beyond to the ships, cottages, and seascape in the distance. The interaction between the viewer and the elements of the painting inspires a lively experience. This piece ultimately serves as a lyrical narrative about the people and setting of this Dutch seaside marketplace.