In June 1672, Charles II issued a declaration in which Dutch artists are invited to move to England. After the Restoration there was an expanding market for paintings in England, especially portraits and marine subjects – but increasingly also for landscapes in the Italianate or northern styles – that could not be satisfied by English artists. Leiden-born marine painter Willem van de Velde (of Flemish descent) responded to the call and left Holland for London to enter in the service of the king. Personal careers counted for more than loyalty or national pride at the time.
He was joined by his son Willem van de Velde the Younger who was to become the most famous of all marine painters, originating a rich English tradition in this genre. Soon after arriving they began their first major commission for the king, designs for a set of tapestries of the recent sea-battle of Solebay during the Third Anglo-Dutch War. He initally he lived with his family in East Lane, Greenwich, using the Queen’s House (now part of the National Maritime Museum) as a studio.
Following the accession of William and Mary this facility was no longer provided, and by 1691 he was living in Sackville Street, now close to Piccadilly Circus. Over the next three decades or so they painted pictures of ships, battles and the sea for the court, the aristocracy and naval officers. Willem the Elder died in December 1693, his son in April 1707.