Born on 28 December 1630 in Emden, Ludolf Backhuysen was a son of Gerhard Backhusz. and Margarete Jansen. His father was a court clerk in Aurich, later a notary in Emden. Houbraken reports that until his eighteenth year, Backhuysen was a 'Klerk op 't Comtoir' (clerk), and that he settled in Amsterdam in 1650 to work as a bookkeeper and secretary for Guillelmo Bartolotti, who, like him, came from Emden. A self-taught artist, he began drawing ships from nature, and at the urging of Allaert van Everdingen - who had settled in Amsterdam in 1652 - he soon began painting as well, taking advice from the marine painter Hendrik Dubbels. His earliest dated paintings suggest that he had been in Amsterdam since 1649 at the latest, and that he was already in contact with Dubbels in 1650. He is first documented on 9 July 1651 in Emden, where he signed a document as a witness. In Amsterdam he is first documented in 1656 as 'schryver ende factor' (clerk and factor). Upon his marriages with Lysbeth Lubberts (1657) and Catarina Bevel (1660), he listed his profession as draughtsman. After the death of his second wife, he lived in Hoorn from 1662 to 1663. In 1663 he probably stayed once again in Emden. On 1 February 1663 he joined the painters' guild in Amsterdam. In 1664 he married Alida Greifet, who brought a silk shop to the marriage as dowry. The couple's daughter Maria was baptised on 14 June 1665. In that same year the mayor of Amsterdam commissioned Backhuysen to paint a view of the city's harbour that was to be presented to Hugues de Lionne, King Louis XIV's foreign minister. The artist was paid 400 ducats for the painting, which was completed in 1666 and now hangs in the Louvre. His third wife died in 1678. Given the dates 1679 and 1680 on paintings and drawings with views of Plymouth, he appears to have visited England around this time. Back in Amsterdam, on 2 June 1680 he married Anna de Hooghe, and in 1683 this marriage produced Johannes Backhuysen, his only son to reach adulthood. A drawing with a view of Emden dated 1686 indicates another visit to his birthplace. In 1699 Backhuysen was named director of the newly established Amsterdam art chamber. His last dated works are from the year 1707. He died in Amsterdam in 1708. Backhuysen's fame is based on his painted and drawn marine pictures, which in many cases depict historical events or immortalise Amsterdam's fame as a port city. After the two Willem van de Veldes had moved away (1673), he became the leading exponent of this genre in Holland. Especially successful at rendering the roiling sea, he combined precise observation of nature with the neoclassical taste of his time. Occasionally he also produced portraits of himself and his wife, and of people who presumably belonged to his far-flung circle of friends and acquaintances. Backhuysen was a master of calligraphy, instructing pupils in that art all his life. Hendrik Dubbels, Jan Claesz. Rietschoof, his son Hendrik Rietschoof, Aernout Smit, Abraham Storck and Michiel Maddersteg are named among his pupils and followers.