Famous Seascape Paintings – British

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Given its island status, it is no surprise that Britain has been blessed with a healthy number of marine and seascape artists. Employing styles and techniques stretching from yesteryear to the present day, the spectrum of famous seascape paintings by British artists has, in turn, captured seaside scenes from Devon to Dover. As the waves and waters hug the country’s circumferential coastline, so too have a number artists embraced the challenge of portraying this rare phenomenon.

The resultant paintings reflect, in the broadest sense, the encapsulating diversity – most evident in the makeup of its people – for which Britain is known on a global scale. Enthusiasts will find plein-air, still-life, historical and topographical offerings presented in oil, watercolour, acrylic and pastel forms.

To that end, here are some famous seascape paintings by the hands of British artists worth pointing out.

‘The Track of Lusitania’ by William Lionel Wyllie

This piece comes from a true connoisseur of maritime art, oils and watercolour, and an Englishman to boot. The Lusitania, in its heyday (the 1900s), was arguably one of the swiftest, plushest liners on the transatlantic service to New York. That was until the Germans caught wind of it and drove a torpedo into its side, having decided that it had crossed their expansive war zone jurisdiction.

Wyllie’s famous seascape painting portrays the scene on the seas in the aftermath. Though it is impossible to make out the individual faces and struggles of the survivors and casualties floating en masse atop the troubled waters, the chaos is clear to see. The charred colour tones reflect the darkness of the tragedy and the inflated, puffy plume of smoke from the explosion almost represents the souls lost, gaining volume with each passing.

‘Samson II’ by Richard Pearce

As a painter, Pearce’s affinity for seascapes is organic and authentic and reflects the fact that he was practically born in the sea. He consequently spent most of his adult life just a pebble’s dash away from the ocean in the Isles of Scilly. Pearce’s work often ooze a Cornish feel, and Samson II is no different – except that it is different; different to the norm, that is.

The seemingly ‘reversed’ composition in this work provokes a sense that the viewer is the one being observed from the shore. But the calmness of the waters removes any sense of panic or danger, while the reflected central glow of the sun provides extra assurance. A high and distant horizon, complemented by the vividness of the oceanic blue tones presents the sea as a serene idyll in which hustles and bustles can be easily escaped.

A View of Cape Stephens in Cook’s Straits New Zealand with Waterspout by William Hodges (1776)

This work by another English painter from the romantic era is all about how human endeavour is sometimes no match for the forces of nature. The colossal waterspouts, the flash of lighting through ominous clouds and the all-encompassing gloom provided by the scene all help to achieve this sense and notion. This is vintage Hodges, who was a travel buddy of Captain James Cook on his second voyage and is renowned for his seascape and maritime depictions.


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