Beach paintings have been part of art history for a very long time. They always seem to carry a unique spirit and an intriguing subtext. Most of these beach scenes were created outdoors, en plain air, a method brought to light by Impressionist artists. In order to fully comprehend nature, its beautiful colors, shapes, and the amazing play of light, this group of painters had taken their easels and canvases outside of the studio.
Nature was and will always be an amazing inspiration for artists. The beach, the ocean, and the seashores are amazing sources of color and light - and to the Romantics - those elements re-enforced the change of emotional states. Such ideas are best described in the history of landscape paintings, in particularly abstract landscapes, where nature was reduced to mere symbols. But, when focusing on beach paintings, most artists desired to reflect on the shimmering light, the adored past-times, and to exemplify the ideas of eternity and warmth.
As one of the early predecessors to the Impressionist movement, David Cox was an English landscape painter and an important member of the Birmingham School. Although most popular for his watercolor art, at the end of his career he created a great number of oil paintings like the beach painting Rhye Sands. Experimenting with painting outdoor, he created an image that depicts the heavily dressed Victorians on the Welsh beach. His sensitive eye captured the force of nature and juxtaposed it with miniature human figures, making this beach painting an impactful one.
Featured image: David Cox – Rhye Sands. Image via wallpaper.com
The beach at Trouville offered Claude Monet a perfect setting to reflect on the contemporary society of his time and their quiet pass times at the beach. It is as we could feel the wind and the sand flying due to the short and forceful brushstrokes making this beach painting a great document of the changing nature. As one of the favorite Impressionist paintings, it displays the typical style of production which earned Monet a memorable spot as an important avant-garde artist.
Featured image: Claude Monet – The Beach at Trouville. Image via pinterest.com
Unlike Claude Monet, in his painting Beach Scene Edgar Degas seems to mock the realism of nature painting. Contrasting his contemporary, Degas doesn’t show a sheer spontaneity of contemporary life, but rather offers to us a staged scene on the beach. This was even more enforced by the fact that the painting was produced in his studio and as such is understood as a question of the very nature of realism in art.
Featured image: Edgar Degas – Beach Scene. Image via nationalgallery.org.uk
Mary Cassatt, known as the painter of children and mothers, was the only American-born artist to exhibit with the Impressionists in Paris. As an important figure of American Impressionism, Cassatt offers to us a peaceful time of children playing with sand. She successfully captured the magnificent of the natural attitude of the children who are none aware of the time and its fast pace. As if to offer us a moment of repose, her painting Children Playing on the Beach is a perfect beach painting to remind us that seasons change and that warmth will again be upon us.
Featured image:Mary Cassatt – Children Playing on the Beach. Image via mayfieldsschool.org
The celebrated French painting Tahitian Women on the Beach by Paul Gauguin is just one of those images that bring the distant cultures closer to us. As one of the most important among the Post-Impressionist artists, Paul Gauguin experimented with symbolism and color. The move to Tahiti and his rejection of the European and modern world is reflected in his paintings which are influenced by the primitive cultures he encountered. This painting is just one of many which captured the day of Tahiti underneath the warm Sun.
Featured image: Paul Gauguin – Tahitian Women on the Beach. Image via widewalls.ch
The magnitude of Henri Matisse’s talent and energy radiates from this vivid beach painting. Decorated with broken brushwork and free color, the warmth of the painted summer sunset seems to burst right at us. Created at Trouville where the artist spent time with Andre Derain, Matisse produced a new aesthetic language and the new idea of beauty. As the father of the Fauvism movement, his amazing color combinations and the focus on the decorative aspect of his canvas surfaces placed him right at the center of the celebrated artists of the 20th-century.
Featured image: Henri Matisse – View of Collioure. Image via pinterest.com
The move to the bay of Collioure gave Andre Derain a perfect setting for his experimentations with light and color. On the edge of abstraction, his painting Boats at Collioure depicts the working day at the beach. Derain, famous for his innovative landscape and cityscape paintings, distorts the scene with his well-known style of unrealistic color combinations. Alongside Henri Matisse, Derain is one of the most important artists of the Fauvism movement.
Andre Derain – Boats at Collioure. Image via pinterest.com
What best describes the idea of the hot summer then color! This is why we just had to include Henri Matisse once again. His painting Joy of Life is regarded as one of the pillars of early modernism. It depicts a landscape in the South of France which has been abstracted to pure color and surface. As one of Matisse’s imaginary compositions, this beach painting seems to evoke an idea of the idle passing of time in a setting that allows for all to happen.
Featured image: Henri Matisse – Joy of Life. Image via widewalls.ch
The female figures, flowers, domestic interiors, and exteriors were frequent themes of Frederick Carl Frieseke’s production. Being part of the second generation of American Impressionist painters, he experimented with en plain air painting concentrating on the depiction of light and color. In his painting On the Beach, we are offered a glimpse of a beautiful female figure sheltering herself from the bright Sun. Her look underneath the umbrella seems to tease us and we are automatically pulled to ponder about the hot summer day.
Featured image: Frederick Carl Frieseke - On the Beach. Image via pinterest.com.
Pablo Picasso’s famous painting Two Women Running on the Beach has a symbolic undercurrent. It is an homage image to the new freedoms which have swept the world after the first world war. Such idea of freedom is hidden in the two massive yet graceful figures which run freely on the beach. Their white dresses are contrasted with the blue color of the sky, making us feel as if they are elements of a poem. As such, the freedom of the sea, the freedom of summer was used as a crucial metaphor for his, some may call it, allegorical painting.
Featured image: Pablo Picasso – Two Women Running on the Beach. Image via wallapaper.com