Reference Entry

Marine painting

David Cordingly

in Oxford Art Online

Published online January 2003 | e-ISBN: 9781884446054 | DOI:

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Term used to describe a variety of painted subjects ranging from the sketchiest of beach scenes to the carefully detailed ships’ portraits commissioned by naval officers and ship-owners. There is no clear division between marine painting and landscape painting, and many of the most vivid portrayals of the sea have been painted by artists with little or no first-hand experience of ships. In the 17th and 18th centuries marine paintings were variously described as ‘sea-pieces’, ‘seascapes’, ‘marines’ and ‘ship-paintings’. The most popular subjects were sea battles, harbours, shipwrecks and estuary scenes. During the 19th century other subjects were added to the repertory including pictures of the seaside, fishing boats, yachts and vistas of the open sea.

Marine art can be traced back to the wall paintings of royal barges in Egyptian tombs dated 1360 bc. The voyages of Odysseus were illustrated on Greek vases of the 5th century bc. Glimpses of ships and ports appear in medieval manuscripts and in the frescoes and altarpieces of the early Renaissance in Italy. The story of Jonah and the Whale and the legend of St Nicholas of Myra, patron saint of sailors, provided opportunities to paint shipwrecks and storms. Among the finest of these early examples of marine painting is ...

Reference Entry.  2203 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Painting ; Art Techniques and Principles

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