Sea / Seafaring

Sea, beach, and ships have been among the classic pictorial motifs in painting for centuries. Painters ranging from Romanticism to Expressionism and Pop Art to contemporary art have dealt with the place of longing - the sea.

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Sea / Seafaring

The Vastness of the Sea in Painting

A sunset across the horizon, ships on a long journey or the colourful hustle and bustle on the beach on a summer's day: maritime motifs are among the classic subjects and enjoy a long tradition in painting. The latest since the 18th century, painting pictures of ships and the sea has been part of the repertoire of many artists. The sea was a great source of inspiration, especially because of its symbolic power. It symbolised freedom and boundlessness, as well as wanderlust and homesickness. Max Beckmann, one of the most important painters of modernism, expressed his love of the sea in the following words: "And then to the sea, my old friend, too long have I been away from you. You whirling infinity with your dress of shining lace. Oh, how my heart swelled. And this loneliness."

Pictures of the Sea – A Highly Diverse Subject

Various terms describe paintings of the sea, such as seascapes, marine painting, or even maritime painting. It is not clearly defined which motifs or pictorial objects are obligatory for this genre. However, for a long time, the sea was not considered an independent pictorial theme either but only served as a scenic framework. Initially, the focus was mainly on boats and ships, which were usually shown in stormy seas or during sea battles. In addition, portraits of ships were made for documentary purposes. It was not until around the 19th century that it became common for paintings to show the sea and waves without any other pictorial objects. Typical scenes were, for example, the churning sea with spray and surf or atmospheric sunsets. Gradually, many other motifs became established in this genre, for example, coastal strips, harbours, shipyards, lighthouses, or the beach picture with bathing people.

The Ships and the Sea During the Epochs

Many great artists of the last centuries were inspired by the myth of the sea and found their own individual ways of interpreting pictures of the sea. In the mid-19th century, painters such as William Turner with "The Fighting Temeraire" or Caspar David Friedrich with his "Sailing Ship in the Fog" created opulent classics of the Romantic epoch. Vincent van Gogh also devoted himself to the genre with "Seascape near Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer", as did Edvard Munch in "A Summer Night on the Beach". The sea was also a popular subject for paintings during Impressionism, for example, in Claude Monet's "Antibes", as well as Expressionism, such as in Max Pechstein's "Sunset Leba Harbour". Even during Classical Modernism, maritime motifs were a standard element, for example, Lyonel Feininger's "Rain Clearness" or Paul Klee's "Sailing Ships". Even today, sea pictures are very popular and are interpreted by artists such as Sibylle Bross, Anja Struck or Gerd Bannuscher. You can buy maritime paintings by many artists in our online shop.