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Fourth of July salute to freedom in art and poetry

These are not the best times for America. The nation has been ravaged by the coronavirus and rent by racial divisions. For all this, Americans have good reason to celebrate the 4th of July in a big way. As John Adams, the second president of the United States, wrote:

‘It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.’ (Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776)

Art vs. reality: Claude Monet’s paintings of Étretat

French Impressionist painter Claude Monet found plenty of room for his creative imagination in Étretat, a fishing village and resort on the Normandy coast. He sojourned in the place several times between1883 and 1886. In all, according to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Étretat inspired more than 50 of his canvases.

Immortal impressions: Claude Monet’s marine paintings

The art movement known as Impressionism produced many notable artists. The greatest of them all, I daresay, was Claude Monet (1840 – 1926). The founder of French Impressionism, Monet executed colour on canvas as a ballet dancer would perform on stage: with energy, precision and nimbleness. He is famous for his Water Lilies series, but his marine paintings are no less marvellous. Indeed, they mesmerise.

The art of isolation in marine art

While humans by nature have a perpetual need for company, we all need to be alone sometimes. No, not the solitude of quarantine or imprisonment, but the solitariness born out of choice and free will. To be able to step back from the noisy crowd is to be free in the real sease of the word. As the following works of art show, there is something beautiful and almost sublime about this freedom.

Crowded beaches and thoughts about the human herd

A crowded beach speaks eloquently of the human condition: the perpetual need for company. People not only congregate there to enjoy sun and sea. They desire to mingle with others and be part of a larger fellowship.

This is why many are whining about the coronavirus lockdowns. To be forced to stay at home is not essentially different from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange withering away in London’s Belmarsh Prison. One is deprived, not only of freedom of movement, but of human companionship.

10 famous artists celebrate people, water and sunlight

Man was not designed to be confined indoors. Even convicts are let out into the prison yard to get some sun. What more for the average person? The following paintings by 10 notable artists celebrate the joy of the outdoors, of water and sunlight, and of that natural freedom most people take for granted until they are deprived of it.

Plagues and pandemics: 7 powerful works by artists of old

People are being bombarded daily with news of the coronavirus pandemic. Many must be tired of the subject. So why would Marine Café Blog share artworks that depict past plagues? First, because they remind us that massive outbreaks of diseases are nothing new. Second, because art can help us deal with our own emotions and sublimate them into some form of activity — such as doing something creative or helping others in these dark, tumultous times.

Tea or coffee? Looking at marine art as refreshment

When viewing art, I often find myself comparing it to tea or coffee. That may seem odd, but the analogy makes perfect sense. An art piece such as a painting or woodblock print has a unique flavour — a distinctive quality or atmosphere that sets it apart from the works of other artists or even from those by the same artist. Needless to say, great art provides more than just visual refreshment. The following are some examples from the world of marine art:

Fire and fury: The varied faces of Blackbeard the Pirate

What did Blackbeard, one of history’s most famous pirates, look like in real life? I believe we will never know for sure. Blackbeard, byname of Edward Teach (or Thatch), lived from around 1680 to 1718 — long before the advent of photography. He is typically shown sporting a luxuriant beard (hence the nickname), but that does not really say much about his true countenance.

Nostalgic art: People at the beach by Winslow Homer

Many beaches have been emptied of tourists and holidaymakers as the coronavirus epidemic drags on. No worries. Winslow Homer, the 19th century American artist best known for his marine subjects, can transport beach lovers beyond the boundaries of time and space.

Solitude in art: musings during a coronavirus lockdown

Entire cities and countries are in lockdown because of the coronavirus. Millions are forced to stay at home, marooned like the pirate in the 1903 drawing by American illustrator and author Howard Pyle (from his Book of Pirates). Humans being hopelessly social creatures, it is a miserable state of affairs. Even so, I hope the following works of art, together with my random reflections, would help mitigate the misery of those who are not used to being isolated from the crowd.