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Marine Art

Introduction

The sea and shore, ships and sailors, have been an inspiration to artists through the centuries.  The museum collections of East Anglia offer a variety of works, old and new, in many different styles and media to interest both those who love the sea and those who love art.

 

Marine painting, as a fine art discipline, dates from the 17th century with the work of the Dutch artist Willem van de Velde, and his contemporaries.  Their subjects were mostly naval and their patrons often royal. Their style and approach to their subjects were the models and inspiration for the first generation of English marine painters.

 

The 18th century British Marine Artists took their inspiration from the grand and formal Dutch style but in the 19th century a new British School broke free from formal tradition and began to depict the power and drama of our coastline.

Captivated by the ever-changing nature of the coastal shores, artists such as JMW Turner, John Constable, David Cox and John Sell Cotman embodied the ethos of ‘Romantic’ movement.

 

‘Pierhead Painting’ forms a distinct genre of 'popular' or 'folk' art within Marine Art. The earliest examples appear in the 18th century though most coincide with the expansion in merchant trade in the 19th century. Pierhead artists are often described as naïve but this does not account for the skill of some of these artists.

The type of paintings they produced were simple portraits of merchant ships and fishing vessels and have little in common with the elaborate seascape of the traditional and academic schools of marine art.

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