In the long history of seascape paintings, some stand out because of their visual and emotional impact. They tend to stamp themselves on the mind like a scene from a classic film or a Shakespearean play. Here’s a look at seven seascapes which are not easily forgotten, at least not by those with an artistic spirit.


Morning at Sea,1887
Ivan Aivazovsky (1817 -1900)

This painting by Ivan Aivazovky, a Russian Romantic painter of Armenian descent, is marvelously suffused with light. As the sun rises, a woman flanked by her two children gazes at a sailing ship as it sits majestic on a calm sea. Perchance she awaits the return of her sailor-husband. The solar glow seems to ooze out of the canvas to bathe the viewer with warmth and a feeling of expectancy.

Fishermen at Sea, circa 1796
J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851)

The moon illuminates a small fishing boat and transforms the sea into an allegorical stage where hardy fishermen play out their fate. It is not only the power of the sea that English Romanticist painter Joseph Mallord William Turner highlights in his masterpiece. It is also the beauty and bounty of nature. The inclusion of such small details as fishes and sea birds enhances the painting’s narrative.

The Port of Le Havre, Night Effect, 1873
Claude Monet (1840-1926)

It is hard not to fall in love with the paintings of Monet, a leading light of the French Impressionist movement. In this nocturnal seascape, Impressionism – with its penchant for swift, spontaneous brushstrokes and delicate, realistic representation of light – produces an almost magical effect. To look at the painting is to hear one of Frédéric Chopin‘s nocturnes.

Seascape, 1874
Gustave Courbet (1819-1877)

French Realist painter Courbet pulled off an artistic coup with a seascape that is deceptively simple. The sea with two sailboats on the horizon occupies a third of the canvas; the rest is all sky. Yet the painting comes off as a rich tapestry of sea and sky with a certain kind of dynamism. Look at the lower portion, and the sea seems to rush toward you. Shift your attention to the horizon, and your eyes are drawn upward to the sky. Sea and sky act as counterpoints to each other but blend into one integral unit.

Seascape Study with Rain Cloud, circa 1824
John Constable (1776-1837)

“Like a double shot of espresso” is probably a fit description for this oil sketch by English Romantic painter John Constable. The dark foreboding clouds are like some apparition in daylight. The work has a daring quality that reminds one of Expressionism and its use of bold, sometimes furious, brushstrokes.

Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville, 1865
James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)

If depicting harmony with nature was his goal, the American-born, British-based Whistler certainly got it right. There is a total absence of tension. The man standing on the shore appears calm and connected to his surroundings. Done in the style of Tonalism, the work has a quiet and wistful mood that should appeal to all those who are tired of dramatic seascapes.

Sea Grasses and Blue Sea, 1958
Milton Avery (1885-1965)

Avery, an American artist, gives new meaning to the term “seascape” in a work remarkable for its simplicity and depth. The canvas has three distinct sections. The thin band of blue at the top represents the sky. The large rectangular area below is cut diagonally to show the sea grasses (lower half, in light blue) and the ocean (upper half, in deep blue). The painting is a visual epigram. It is concise and clever, the globs of black helping to give the ocean oomph and an enigmatic character.

~Barista Uno

Related posts that you may like:

Spellbound by Winslow Homer’s marine art

Maritime photography à la espresso