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Famous Seascape Paintings

Seascape paintings with their subtle hues, spontaneity, atmospheric spray that seems jump out of the painting and wet the observer, and seemingly eternal movement, hypnotises audiences with a zest and vigour other genres of art rarely achieve.

Being such a captivating subject, the majestic charms of the sea has nurtured many a great seascape painter. But what are the most famous seascape paintings to have been produced?


‘Peace – Burial at Sea’, Joseph Mallord William Turner

Although he did not specialise in just marine paintings, artist Joseph Mallord William Turner he is widely acknowledged as Britain’s finest master of portraying the natural elements. Art critic John Ruskin, who never held back from ripping into lesser artists, was Turner’s staunchest supporter. Turner’s `Peace – Burial at Sea` (1842) has to be one of the most famous seascape paintings, which depicts the marine burial of Turner’s friend and fellow artist, David Wilkie.

Unfortunately a lot of criticism was directed at Turner for what was considered lack of finishing in his work and the expressionist quality of his paintings was overlooked in an eagerness to see detail.

Turner was by no means the only artist of famous seascape paintings; he was greatly influenced by the work of Willem Van der Velde. However although this artist tended to specialise in marine images, they all seem rather stiff compared to Turner. It is likely that a good number of his paintings never tasted salt sea spray. Turner on the other hand, if reports are true, was most likely strapped to the mast.

‘The Monk on the Seashore’, Casper David Fredrich

When writing about famous seascape paintings, Casper David Fredrich’s ‘Monk on the Seashore (1808 – 1810) is more than worthy of a mention. This incredible painting is made up of plain linear shapes, the sky, the sea and the shoreline with one lonely figure. Fredrich’s work is dark and allegorical and has nothing of the movement of Turner or wild raging seas of other artists. It is almost as if the artist visits the site of some great torment, after it had all died down.

`The Raft of the Medusa, Theodore Gericault

One of the most famous images of tragedy at sea is `The Raft of the Medusa’ (1819) by Theodore Gericault, which now resides in the Louvre in Paris. This famous painting is purely fantasy and really does not feel like it is at sea, but more like the end of the world. It shows a pile of human bodies fighting for the top spot on a raft, in a geometric triangular formation. In reality the whole thing would tip over and sink from the sheer weight.

Whilst it lacks the fresh and comforting qualities more ‘conventional’ seascape paintings are synonymous with, the ‘Raft of the Medusa’ is one of the most iconic paintings of the ocean to have ever been created, which almost single-handedly meant Theodore Gericault was viewed as an icon of French Romanticism.

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