Portraiture greatly expanded as a genre during the 18th and 19th centuries. This was due to several factors, including: the universal use of oils and canvas; the increase in commerce which in turn created a large group of wealthy middle-class businessmen and landowners; and the use of portraiture as a way of making a permanent visual record of individuals and families. In any event, there was a significant growth in portrait art during this period, which was only halted with the introduction of the camera in the 20th century.
In 1672, at the beginning of the Third Anglo-Dutch War, as a result of the economic collapse of the French invasion, he moved to London with his father. Then he chose other subjects. He concentrated on portraits of the royal English yachts and of warships. Two years later, in 1674, he was appointed by Charles II of England to work for him for a £ 100 salary. He painted naval battles, often based on his father's drawings. The Duke of York, later King James II of England, was one of his patrons. Willem van de Velde first lived in Queen's House in Greenwich and then moved to Westminster in 1691.
His name was soon made in England. His paintings of the English fleet hung on the walls of the royal court. He was soon considered one of the greatest naval painters of his time in England. His works were very expensive and he made a considerable fortune as a result. The English bought up as much as possible the works he had made in Holland and elsewhere. This made them so rare that they cost twice as much in one year as the year before. His later works set the tone for English naval paintings in the 18th century.
The best of Van de Velde are the delicate and finished images of the Dutch coast with Dutch shipping. The rigging of the ships and the many figures are also detailed and correctly depicted. The painter was able to depict both the calm and the stormy sea very well.