Beach art has earned an iconic place in art history and has inspired artists to bring out some of their best work. The duality of land and sea has intrigued artists and has inspired them to take their canvases and paint brushes outside of their studios.
The fluctuating spectrum of the light, unique blend of color, and seamless movement evoke a mix of emotions. Artists have tried to capture the transience of seascapes, believing that this fleeting moment could be kept alive in their paintings.
With summer just around the corner, here's a compiled list of the top 5 famous beach paintings the world has ever seen.
Two Women Running on the Beach - Pablo Picasso
Painted during the summer of 1992, Picasso drew this in the neoclassical style - a new movement that constituted the return of traditional approaches to art. Following the events of the First World War and the carnage brought about by the conflict, Picasso's famous beach painting reflected society's craving for stability.
The miniature piece was painted using gouache, a watercolor designed to be opaque, and was done on plywood. The painting depicts two women running across the beach with their hair blowing in the wind, arms aloft, and oblivious to their state of undress. The women are illustrated in tanned bodies against a contrasting yet brilliant, blue background of sea and sky.
The women seem to be enjoying the luxury of complete freedom and emancipation, and the painting exudes a feeling of "living life to the fullest." This conveys Picasso's main post-war message - this is precisely how one must live and feel life, and the Earth is no place for more military horrors.
The Beach at Trouville - Claude Monet
This is one of Monet's five famous beach paintings ever seen in the summer of 1870. Monet created it during the weeks he spent with his wife Camille and their son Jean at the coast of Normandy. You can take a close look at Monet's oil painting at the National Gallery in London.
French Impressionism focuses on capturing brief "moments" of sunlight and color on canvas. The artist has weaved a brilliant oil painting of his wife, Camille, who is looking into the distance. , Her veil obscures her face, and she is depicted to be seemingly bored.
During its composition, grains of sand had been swept into the painting, illustrating Monet's expertise in plein-air painting. The artist has successfully captured a single breezy moment, showing off the holiday destination with its wide sandy beaches, bracing air, and ocean flecks.
Tahitian Women on the Beach - Paul Gauguin
This oil painting by Paul Gauguin came to fruition in 1931 during his time in Tahiti, a small island in the Pacific. During that time, Gauguin wanted to escape the bureaucracy of Europe and embrace the luxury of freedom, and his painting clearly illustrates the artist's feelings of tranquility and liberty.
He shows two women at rest, sitting in the sand, one facing the viewer and the other facing away. They look exhausted and seem to be occupied by their thoughts. The woman facing the observer is weaving a basket but pays no eye contact to the task, as though the monotonous, rhythmic action helps her to unwind.
Gaugin's thoughtful attention to detail conveys a feeling of calmness and inner peace, making this one of the most impactful beach paintings.
Children Playing on the Beach - Mary Cassatt
Mary Cassatt does a beautiful job capturing relaxed and at play children, unaware of the viewer's gaze. This showcases her commendable talent in illustrating the natural attitudes of children.
To make sure that the central focus of the painting revolves around the little girls, Mary Cassatt does not give much attention to the seascape background. Instead, pay close attention to the boats and the ocean - they melt into a haze of natural light. That's not all. This seems to reflect the typical thought process - their focus lasers in on what amuses them while the rest of the world turns to a blur.
The artist's extreme attention to detail must be appreciated - the intent expression of one child's face, the lowered angles of their heads, and the awkward way one of them is holding the long handle of the bucket with one hand and holding the rim in the other. The painting exemplifies the innocence and warmth of children and hits viewers with a dose of nostalgia.
Rhyl Sands - David Cox
David Cox does a beautiful job of depicting the harshness of nature. The painting shows a panoramic expanse of sea and sky, full of a foreboding atmosphere, overpowering the human figures on the fringe of the beach.
David Cox makes a bold move to go the unconventional route and illustrate the unsettling characteristics of the beach in terms of its unpredictability, harshness, and malleability. Cox has captured the force of nature and juxtaposed it with miniature human figures, making this one of the most eye-opening pieces of art.
If you look closely, you can see that the garments worn by the figures are all being blown back by the gusts of wind coming off the sea. The dark clouds descending from the North give the impression that the Victorians could be devoured at any moment, adding to the ominous theme.
The Bottom Line
Many would agree that a day at the beach is a day well spent, and these paintings show how people around the globe have gravitated to the ocean to find inspiration for their artwork. From Picasso's Two Women Running on the Beach to Cox's Rhyl Sands, the beach has helped these artists unveil masterpieces that have become some of the most famous beach paintings ever seen.