Willem van de Velde II came from one of the greatest seventeenth century families of Dutch masters; his father, Willem van de Velde I (1611-1693), was a first rate draughtsman of marines, whose love of the sea and ships was inherited by his youngest son. Adriaen van de Velde (1636-1672), Willem II's older brother, excelled in the pastoral landscape. Willem II was influenced by his father, and, especially in the early part of his career, also by his contemporaries, Simon de Vlieger and Abraham van Beyeren.
Willem II’s early works are highly finished and carefully crafted. As he matured, his style broadened and he achieved his effects with a greater economy of brushstrokes. His palette also evolved from the earlier predominant grays and blues to the warmer browns of his English period. Willem II was also a draughtsman throughout his career, and he continuously executed highly detailed renderings of ships and other scenes as studies for his paintings. His ships are portrayed with an almost photographic accuracy, and are the most precise guides available for the appearance of 17th century ships. Willem van de Velde II enjoyed enormous success in his lifetime, with royal patronage from King Charles II of England.