The theme of a ferry carrying passengers or cattle across a river is very common in Dutch nineteenth-century painting. It can be found in many works by artists of the romantic era, and occasionally in those of Hague School painters, for example in Paul Gabriel's Ferry at Driel . In Jacob Maris's work the subject of a ferry first appears in a sketchbook dating from the early 1860s. A small sketch of this theme, painted in 1864, is now in the collection of H. van Leeuwen, Amerongen. Only at the end of his Paris period, in 1870, did Maris develop the subject fully and paint five variously related versions of it. The choice of this particularly Dutch theme, made famous by such artists as Esaias van de Velde, Jan van Goyen and Salomon van Ruysdael, has been interpreted as a deliberate statement by Maris. Coming at a time when he definitely opted for a career as a landscape painter, he stressed his allegiance to the traditions of his native land, to which he was to return the next year.
Source: R. de Leeuw, J. Sillevis, Ch. Dumas (eds.), The Hague School: Dutch masters of the 19th century, The Hague 1983