(b. 1577, Antwerpen, d. 1664, Utrecht)
Painter, member of a Dutch family of painters. The marine painter Adam Willaerts was one of the many Protestants who emigrated from Flanders to the northern Netherlands at the end of the 16th century. He had three sons who became painters, at least two of whom, Abraham Willaerts and Isaac Willaerts, studied with him and painted marine subjects as well as portraits. Unlike his father and younger brothers, the eldest son Cornelis Willaerts (1600-66) was a history painter who also painted portraits and landscapes, including Arcadian scenes in the manner of Cornelis van Poelenburch. He remains a shadowy figure, by whom only one signed work is known.
During his early years in Antwerp Adam Willaerts was impressed with the colourful paintings of the Fleming Jan Breughel the Elder. He spent some time in England before settling in inland Utrecht, aged 23, in 1604, where he lived for the rest of his life. However, the subject and style of his earliest known picture, Dutch East Indiamen off the West African Coast (1608; Amsterdam, Historische Museum), presumably painted after the artist's arrival in Holland, shows the influence of the Dutch marine painter Hendrick Cornelisz. Vroom. In this painting Willaerts adopted Vroom's austere compositional scheme of an uninterrupted horizontal expanse of water with no framing devices, but he lacked Vroom's skill in depicting ships.
In Holland he knew Roelandt Savery, whose influence can be seen in his landscapes, and he was almost certainly influenced by the Brueghel family since he also painted genre subjects. Later he turned to beach scenes, influenced by Jan Brueghel and Joos de Momper. He had three sons who were also marine painters.