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A salute to seagulls in poetry, music and art

Seagulls can be quite pesky. The loud, harsh sounds they make are no music to the ear. An Encyclopedia Britannica article describes seagulls as “adaptable opportunists” that feed on whatever food they can find. “Some of the larger gulls,” it notes, “prey on the eggs and the young of other birds, including their own kind.” Despite their notoriety, these birds continue to captivate many people with their beauty, resilience and freedom.

A cupful of Chilean marine art à la espresso

Like other Latin American countries, Chile has produced some brutal military dictators such as Augusto Pinochet. But it also a country of poets and painters. Two Chilean poets were awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature: Gabriela Mistral (in 1945) and Pablo Neruda (in 1971). There is no dearth of gifted painters either. The following is a small serving of marine paintings by Chilean artists. I hope you enjoy them as you would a cup of delicious coffee.

Lovers by the sea: A timeless celebration in art

So much for the pandemic, declarations of seafarers as ‘key workers’, and all that nonsense about mental health training. To hijack a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of by people in the shipping business. The following are some works of art that celebrate romantic love against the backdrop of the sea. Love and the sea — are they not more enduring than the things maritime folks like to blabber about?

Marvellous American art inspired by the Mississippi River

The United States Geological Survey ranks the Mississippi River fifth amongst the world’s longest rivers and the second longest in North America. From its source at Lake Itasca in Minnesota through the center of the continental United States to the Gulf of Mexico, its waters flow 2,340 miles (3,766 kms). But more significantly, the Mississippi River brims with history and culture. The following works of art are but a small collection but they tell a story about the great Mississippi. The three quotes are from Mark Twain’s 1883 memoir, ‘Life on the Mississippi’.

Time and tide: Powerful quotes and art to ponder on

What commodity could be more precious than time? A person can amass wealth if he is smart enough like Microsoft kingpin Bill Gates or Chinese billionaire Jack Ma of the Alibaba Group. But who can accumulate time? There is only so much of it allotted to every human being. Ironically, many fritter away their time posting selfies on social media, watching inane TV shows, or engaging in pointless political debate. I trust that the following quotes, together with some artworks, will serve as food for thought about the value and nature of time and about life itself.

Eye-popping Russian art inspired by the Volga River

The Volga is no ordinary river. The principal waterway in Western Russia, it is the longest on the European continent. Encyclopedia Britannica describes it as “the historic cradle of the Russian state” whose “immense economic, cultural, and historic importance—along with the sheer size of the river and its basin—ranks it among the world’s great rivers.” Small wonder that it has inspired so many Russian artists.

The Song of the Volga Boatmen: Hail to the human spirit

One need not be Russian to be moved by The Song of the Volga Boatmen (‘Eh, Ukhnem!’ to the Russians or ‘Yo, Heave Ho!’). This well-known traditional song was originally sung by burlaks, the men who pulled barges upstream in the old Russia. The melody is stern and gloomy, which somehow reinforces the Western stereotype of the Russian people as dour and cheerless. But the song also has a triumphant, martial air…

Vintage maritime photos that will pique your curiosity

Some photographs do more than delight the eye. They make you pause and wonder. Something in the picture bids you to take a closer look. It could be the unusual subject matter or the way the photographer captured the scene. The following maritime shots from long ago have such an effect on the viewer. They demonstrate what the English author Joseph Addison wrote in his 1712 essay, ‘Pleasures of the Imagination’: “Everything that is new or uncommon raises a pleasure in the imagination, because it fills the soul with an agreeable surprise, gratifies its curiosity, and gives it an idea of which it was not before possessed.”

Allegories of life: Storms at sea in art

One has to be a sailor to experience a storm of sea. However, there are enough storms on shore that are just as horrible. I do not mean the ones weathermen track with satellites. I mean the trials and tribulations which all mortals undergo — what Shakespeare’s Hamlet called the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” in his famous ‘To be, or not to be‘ soliloquy. The following works of art may well serve as allegories of life in these troubled and troubling times.

Sea and sunrise: Inspiring art to welcome 2021

This year has not been the best of times, but neither has it been the worst. The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic killed more than 50 million people worldwide compared with the 1.76 million-plus who have died so far from COVID-19. Still, many may find little to be glad about 2020, except perhaps the billionaires, some of whom have become even richer because of the pandemic. I hope the following works of art will give readers of Marine Café Blog a measure of optimism and a sense of renewal as they welcome the new year.

Female nudes by the sea: A feast for artistic eyes

Some religious conservatives may frown upon artworks that depict women au naturel. Hardcore feminists may dismiss them as objectification of women. The fact remains, however, that nudity in art is nothing new, and only the prudish and the narrow-minded will be shocked by it. The following artworks feature female nudes by the sea. The collection is preluded by the first stanza of a poem by Pablo Neruda (1904–1973), winner of the 1971 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Tasting the delectable flavours of Brazilian marine art

As a coffee enthusiast, I have always associated Brazil with coffee. The country, after all, is the largest grower and exporter of coffee beans. Recently, I discovered that it also has a rich tradition of marine art that is as delectable as its coffee. The following are a few examples of what Brazilians have accomplished in this field. Regrettably, I am unable to share contemporary artworks due to copyright restrictions. This small collection should nonetheless give readers a taste of Brazilian marine art.