Van de Velde, the son of a sea captain, specialised in pictures of ships and sea views. The popularity of Dutch marine painting reflected the importance of the sea for the nation's economy. Van de Velde and his son Willem van de Velde II, collaborated fruitfully, spending time at sea with the Dutch and later the British fleets. The father’s detailed drawings served as models for his son's paintings. Originally based in Leiden and Amsterdam, they moved to Britain in 1672 to work for King Charles II, and were regarded as the finest marine artists in Europe.