Little is known about the background of landscape painter Gerard van Edema. A native of Friesland, he was born around 1652 in Amsterdam. Before settling in England around 1670, he had travelled extensively, to Norway, Newfoundland, New York and Surinam. He may have been the Nicholas Edema who painted insects and plants in Suriname. His arrival in England coincided with an increasing popularity of this genre in the decoration of country houses such as Althorp or Drayton House in Nottinghamshire. From his own estate in Richmond, he painted views of the Thames at least twice (one of the paintings is in the Royal collection). He was partly responsible for creating a vogue for dramatic Scandinavian scenes and the depicting of wild natural images with mountain storms, cliffs, waterfalls, winding rivers and fallen trees – everything one does not associate with the Low Countries.
Van Edema’s work contributed to the evolution of the Picturesque. Mount Edgcumbe House overlooks Plymouth and the waters of the Sound and the English Channel. It was the ancestral home of the Edgcumbe family for over four hundred years. Richard Edgcumbe employed three Dutch immigrant painters, Van Edema, John Wyck and Willem van de Velde the Younger, to have a series of views painted for his collection. The artists remained for some time at Mount Edgcumbe. A heavy drinker, Van Edema died at his home in Richmond about 1700.