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Sea Artists: The History of Capturing the Sea on Canvas

  • 7 min read

Cornwall artist John Dyer at work painting the sea on Tresco, Cornwall

Above: Cornwall based artist John Dyer painting the sea on the island of Tresco. The painting 'Fun on the Beach, Old Grimsby, Tresco' is available to purchase as a signed limited edition print. Buy online.

Did you know that the ocean covers almost three quarters of the earth's surface? It is no wonder that the coast and sea are a great source of inspiration for many artists and have been for centuries. Many painters have been drawn to the coast to create seascape paintings, paintings of waves, seaside beach scenes, sailing boats on a calm sea, and yachts on a tumultuous sea, including Impressionist painters like Claude Monet

Seascapes by our Gallery Artists

All the prints and paintings just below are by our gallery artists and are available to buy online. These are just a small selection from a series of works by Ted Dyer, John Dyer and Joanne Short based around images of the sea, each artist capturing a moment in time in their own style.

"Living in Cornwall, as artists, we are always drawn to the sea and it's changing state. The light changes as the day progresses and the tides change throughout each day. No two days are the same and it is a joy to capture this in paint." Joanne Short

Above: Ted Dyer Fine Art Print. Open Edition Cornish Art Print. 'Classics III'

Ted Dyer's open edition Cornish fine art print, 'Classics III', is an incredible example of a painting depicting the sea and this acclaimed artist's work. The print feature Ted Dyer's painting of classic sailing boats on Carrick Roads in Falmouth, Cornwall. The exquisite use of light and colour create a fresh and modern image of the ocean.

Above: Ted Dyer Fine Art Print. Open Edition Cornish Art Print. 'Sparkling Sea and wild Flowers, Pendennis Headland, Falmouth'

Ted Dyer's passion for painting is clear in this beautiful sea print, an encapsulation of so many of his greatest inspirations. Glorious rays of sunlight illuminate the sweeping view from Pendennis Headland to St Mawes and its lighthouse, with traditional sailing vessels gliding across the Carrick Roads backdrop. Together they create a breathtakingly beautiful scene that captures the ocean perfectly.

Above: John Dyer Painting. 'Caribbean Beach Life, Costa Rica'.

John Dyer has traveled the world painting and his expedition to paint in the jungle of Costa rica also saw the artist exploring the Caribbean coast in paint. This lively depiction of the sea captures so much fo what makes the tropics and the Caribbean so special.

Above: John Dyer Fine Art Print. Open Edition Cornish Art Print. 'Race Day, Tall Ships, Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth'

As the official artist for the Tall Ships regatta races in Falmouth and London John Dyer has had a front row seat to really get the feel and essence of these magnificent vessels, the sense of carnival and the colourful atmosphere they create. This gorgeous museum-quality open-edition seaside art print has it all.

Above: Vintage Style Seaside Travel Poster Print by Cornish Artist John Dyer. Swimmers, Seals & Sails in Cornwall

Break away from the mundane and add a splash of summer to your walls with this captivating seaside art poster by acclaimed Cornish artist, John Dyer. Featuring playful topless bathers, seals, seagulls and boats in the turquoise blue sea - it's no wonder why this art print is one of his most popular. So make sure you don't miss out on an opportunity to bring the joy of the sea into your home with this charming piece that captures Cornwall at its best!

Above: Joanne Short Framed Open Edition Cornish Fine Art Print. 'Lizard Lighthouse under a Full Moon'

Joanne Short's breathtaking archival and museum-quality fine art print showcases the majestic cliffs of Cornwall's beloved Lizard Peninsular, illuminated by a full moon in the night sky. The Lizard lighthouse stands proudly set against the night sky, and wild Cornish flowers fill the foreground with their vibrant hues. A fabulous contemporary depiction of the sea and the coast of Cornwall..


Some of the Most Famous ocean paintings in Art History

Katsushika Hokusai, Japanese, (1760–1849) 

 Under the Wave off Kanagawa
Above: Under the Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami ura), also known as The Great Wave, from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei)

A timeless composition that is said to have inspired the likes of Debussy and Rilke, this woodblock print by Hokusai has earned its place as one of the most iconic works in art history. By manipulating perspective, Hokusai managed to capture Japan's grandest mountain - Mount Fuji - within an ominous wave. He utilises his signature palette of indigo and Prussian blue. It is part of a whole series of images 'Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji'.

By framing the mountain with a tumultuous ocean, Hokusai artfully illustrated his respect for the sea and its power. The fishermen in their boats appear tiny, as if insignificant when contrasted against nature's might. Through this unique perspective, he hoped to remind viewers of the reverence that Japan has held for Mount Fuji since ancient times.

Caspar David Friedrich, German, (1774-1840)

 Caspar David Friedrich, Woman on the Beach of Rügen

Above: Caspar David Friedrich, Woman on the Beach of Rügen

For Friedrich it was nature that took centre stage and not just a background to figures and portraits. He saw a spirituality in nature - the crashing of waves, towering mountains and rolling hills.

The grandeur of nature and man’s humility was the focus of his paintings. In the 19th century, Friedrich breathed life into the German Romantic Movement with his captivating and enigmatic perspective on nature.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, British, (1775-1851)

 The fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up' by Joseph Mallord William

Above: 'The fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1839

This beautiful painting depicts a battleship called 'Fighting Temeraire'. This captivating painting of the 98-gun ship sailing away from the setting sun to the east demonstrates Britain's waning naval power. Representing a significant moment in history, this beautiful piece is an incredibly calming experience with its myriad of tones and textures.

'Snow Storm. Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth' by JMW Turner, 1842 

Above: 'Snow Storm. Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth' by JMW Turner, 1842 

This painting portrays a vessel fighting the forces of nature to stay afloat in heavy swells and winds. Legend has it that Turner daringly tied himself to the mast during an actual storm so he could capture every detail, from how strong the wind was blowing to what it felt like for his ship at sea.

Fitz Hugh Lane (1804-1865)

 'Becalmed off Halfway Rock' by Fitz Hugh Lane
Above: 'Becalmed off Halfway Rock' by Fitz Hugh Lane

Born in Massachusetts as Nathanial Rogers Lane, 19th century American artist Fitz Hugh Lane left a permanent stamp on the art world with his Luminism style. Growing up around Gloucester Harbour and having a sailmaker father naturally channeled him towards painting seascapes and ships. In addition to these inspirations, he also honed his skills working in Boston at a lithographer's shop before becoming one of America's most renowned painters. He was one of the leading figures in the Hudson River School of landscape art and was renowned during his lifetime as America's greatest maritime painter. His artwork can now be found in numerous American museums, including the Metropolitan Museum, signifying his continued legacy even centuries later.

Ivan Aivazovsky (1817-1900)

The Ninth Wave' by Ivan Aivazovsky 

Above: 'The Ninth Wave' by Ivan Aivazovsky

Ivan Aivazovsky's artwork is distinguished by its stunning use of light, which continues to captivate art critics; he has been admired over the years for his eye-catching talent. His pieces depict coastal scenes that radiate a romantic atmosphere—not only sunlight glistening off waves but also moonlight, fire, clouds, mists and fogs. Truly remarkable in their detail and form, these works demonstrate the artist's appreciation for nature and expressive gifts as an oil painter.

Winslow Homer (1836-1910)

 'Gulf Stream' by artist Winslow Homer 

Above: 'Gulf Stream' by artist Winslow Homer, 1889

Gulf Stream' by artist Winslow Homer, 1889

Above: 'Gulf Stream' by artist Winslow Homer, 1899

An acclaimed American painter and printmaker, Winslow Homer is celebrated for his captivatingmarine artpieces. His works were considered among themost significant of19th-centuryAmerica,makinghim a leading figure inAmerican visualart.

By creating hismasterpiecesthrough a two-part process, starting withplein air sketchesonsite and finishingwithdetailed studio work featuring motifsfromvarious locations,Homer revolutionised the method of art creation. As such, he became an iconic figure in what is loosely known as 'American Impressionism' - a movement tied to innovative American artists like Frederic Edwin Church, John Singer Sargent and James Whistler.

 Study for 'Gulf Stream' by artist Winslow Homer

Above: Study for 'Gulf Stream' by artist Winslow Homer

Claude Monet 1840-1926

In 1883 the artist Claude Monet (1840-1926)spent most of February 1883 at Étretat, a fishing village on the Normandy coast. He painted a series of twenty studies of the beach and the three extraordinary rock formations in the area: the Porte d'Aval, the Porte d'Amont, and the Manneporte. 

The Cliff at Étretat' by Claude Monet
Above: The Cliff of Aval, Étretat'
 'Rough Weather at Étretat' by Claude Monet
Above: 'Rough Weather at Étretat' by Claude Monet (1883)


Art depicting the sea has captivated many artists over time. These seven historical painters have certainly left an impression with their beautiful paintings. From Friedrich's romanticism to Homer's American Impressionism, every artist has used his own unique style to bring out the beauty of the sea in all its forms.

These historical paintings by these famous seascape artists show the viewer how different elements can be drawn on to capture the essence of the sea and ocean. The artists' sea paintings are reminders for generations to come of how talented and skilful each artist is.

In their own way our gallery artists Ted Dyer, John Dyer and Joanne Short depict the beauty of the sea and how, as contemporary artists, they can bring the joy and colour of the sea into your home.

You can buy your own original painting of the sea for your interior

If you are searching for a new painting depicting the sea then take a look at the available seascape original paintings that we currently have available in the John Dyer Gallery to purchase online. Delivery is free worldwide.

Enjoy owning an affordable art poster print of the sea

We also have a unique museum-quality range of affordable Cornish art poster prints featuring our sea artists' work that we are sure you will love.


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Have you seen some art in this article you are considering purchasing?

If you would like help or advice in choosing and investing in the perfect piece of art for your interior and art collection, please feel free to get in touch. We are delighted to answer your questions and can suggest additional art prints or original paintings that will be perfect for you.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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