Nature has always been a source of inspiration for artists, but the beach is a particularly recurrent theme in the history of art. The 19th century French impressionists were famous for taking their easels and painting outside to paint outside, but their successor artists continued to depict natural environments outside of their studios.
Many would agree that a day at the beach is a day well spent, and these paintings show how people around the world have been drawn to the ocean for centuries. From the sunny beaches of France to the windy shores of England, and even the tropical sands of Tahiti, these famous works of art capture the colors, light and atmosphere of playful and quiet days at the beach. Discover the seaside-inspired paintings of Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt and many more below.
Discover five famous beach paintings from the history of art.
Children playing on the beach by Mary Cassatt, 1884
Marie cassatt was an American painter best known for her depictions of mothers and babies. This painting demonstrates his skill in capturing the natural and tender moments of children. It represents two young girls dressed in white aprons digging in the sand. They are both engrossed in the activity, appearing totally content and oblivious to the viewer. Cassatt rarely painted beaches, but her rendering of the coastal setting perfectly captures the sunny, spontaneous moment.
Beach scene by Edgar Degas, 1877
Unlike his contemporaries who often painted outside, French impressionist artist Edgar Degas is believed to have staged this outdoor scene inside his studio. Bevery scene is one of four works he painted that depict the beaches of northern France. Degas was a great admirer of Japanese prints, and some historians believe that the art form influenced this work. In the center of the scene, a maid combs the hair of a young girl, a story that can be found in Japanese prints.
Camille on the beach of Trouville by Claude Monet, 1870
Camille on the beach of Trouville portrayed Claude MonetCamille’s first wife at the shore. It is one of a series of beach paintings by the French Impressionist and shows the artist’s exceptional ability to capture light and movement with the help of paint. Rendered in the short brushstrokes of Monet’s signature, the painting transports the viewer to the windy day of 1870 in Normandy. You can almost feel the wind, the crashing waves and the salty air.
Tahitian women on the beach by Paul Gauguin, 1891
In order to escape from “modern” society in France, the French artist Paul Gauguin went to Tahiti in 1891 to discover the Polynesian art of living. The landscape, its people and their life under colonization became the subjects of her art for many years, especially indigenous women. Tahitian women on the beach was painted during the summer of his freshman year there. It depicts two women sitting in the sand, one wearing a traditional sarong, while the other wears a Western-style scarf tied around the body. The subject on the left wears a yellow ribbon in his hair, again illustrating the Western influence on Tahitian culture at that time.
The New Moon by William Turner, 1840
English romantic painter Joseph Mallord William Turner is known for his atmospheric landscape paintings that depict 19th century life. He especially enjoyed painting seascapes, and he always worked outdoors, sketching and quickly painting the scene in front of him. The New Moon-also known as, “I lost my boat, you won’t get your hoop”– depicts his view of the Kent coast at Margate, a place Turner often stayed in his later years. The delicate, misty scene shows children and dogs playing on the shore, revealing the famous lonely artist’s fondness for children.
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Here’s everything you’ll need to start painting “outdoors” this spring.