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Famous Paintings of Beaches that Influence our own Paintings

  • 7 min read

Famous Paintings of Beaches that Influence our own Paintings

Above: Detail from Fatata te Miti (By the Sea) by Paul Gauguin. Available as an open edition art print.

Looking at paintings of a beach scene can transport you to a different place. You can feel the sand between your toes, the sun on your skin, and the breeze in your hair. These paintings are not just beautiful to look at; they transport us to the place of holiday memories and time spent having fun. In this blog post, we will take a look at several famous historic beach paintings and see how they have influenced our work here at The John Dyer Gallery.

Famous Beach Paintings

Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Claude Monet painted many pictures of the French coast. One of his most famous is 'Camille at the Beach at Trouville' painted in 1870.

painting by Claude Monet, 'The Beach at Trouville'

Above: painting by Claude Monet, 'Camille at the Beach at Trouville', 1870

Many of Monet's impressionist contemporaries also painted famous paintings of the beach.

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)

Edgar Degas, 'Beach at Low Tide',

Above: Edgar Degas, 'Beach at Low Tide', (mouth of the River), 1869

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)

 Paul Gauguin, 'Tahitian women on the Beach',

Above: Paul Gauguin, 'Tahitian women on the Beach', 1891

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

The beach is a recurrent theme in Picasso’s artwork, which is unsurprising considering he was born in Spain. This is especially true for paintings like 'Bather with Beach Ball' and 'The Bathers'. Out of all his beach-themed paintings, 'Two Women Running on the Beach' seems to be the happiest, most exuberant image; it looks like a carefree day under the sun with the protagonists having a lot of fun.
 Picasso painting - two women running on a beach

Above: Pablo Picasso, 'Two women running on the beach', 1922

Above: Vintage Style Seaside Travel Poster by John Dyer. Saucy Seaside Gyllyngvase Beach Cornwall

Less famous Historic Beach Paintings

Many less well-known but equally influential artists have painted many beach paintings.

Edward Henry Potthast 1857-1957

One of my favourites is the American Impressionist Edward Henry Potthast who painted many coastal scenes around New York in the late 1800s. His work is colourful and full of movement and his groups of figures are seen to be clearly enjoying themselves. Born in Ohio he studied painting in Europe. He lived in New York from age 38 until his death at 70 in 1927. Potthast is best known for his paintings of leisurely life at New York’s and New England’s beaches, painted en plein air, with carefree, loose brushstrokes.

 "A Day's Fishing" by Henry Potthast

Above: "A Day's Fishing" by Henry Potthastc. 1923

Potthast's painting 'A Day's Fishing' reminds me of several paintings of Tresco and the Isles of Scilly by all our gallery artists. This painting depicts calm scenery, clear water and colourful fishing boats as do these works by Ted Dyer, John Dyer and Joanne Short.

 

 Above:  Signed Limited Edition Print by Cornish Artist John Dyer. 'Fun on the Beach, Old Grimsby, Tresco'

 

Above: Isles of Scilly Limited Edition Print by Cornish Artist Joanne Short. 'Porthcressa Beach, St Mary's'

The image below by Potthast is very reminiscent of many of Ted Dyer's softly painted images of working boats and tall ships in and around Falmouth Harbour. The soft light and misty skies can often be seen in Dyer's paintings.

Edward Henry Potthast, Landscape, 2021 
Above: 'Landscape', Edward Henry Potthast, 1921

Above: Ted Dyer Fine Art Print. Open Edition Cornish Art Print. 'Misty Calm, Falmouth'

Many of Potthast's paintings feature thought provoking studies of groups of people on the beach - children playing on the sand, groups of children and women on the beach and women running and walking along the shore. These charming elements also often appear in Ted Dyer's paintings.

'Summer Day, Brighton Beach', Edward Henry Potthast

Above: 'Summer Day, Brighton Beach', Edward Henry Potthast
 

Above: Ted Dyer Fine Art Print. Open Edition Cornish Art Print. 'A Cornish Summer, Gwithian'

All of the paintings above show how both Potthast and Ted Dyer capture the soft light reflecting off the sandy beach. Both of these artist's paintings capture the same feelings of family time on the beach and a similar softness of the light.

George Leslie Hunter (1877-1931)

George Leslie Hunter was a Scottish painter, and one of the four artists in the group known as Scottish Colourists. He was christened George Hunter but chose to go by Leslie after he moved to San Francisco where he spent fifteen formative years from the age of 15.

He went back to Scotland and did paintings and drawings there as well as on trips to Paris. He journeyed around Europe a lot, particularly in the southern part of France. Hunter painted different types of pictures including still-lifes, landscapes, and portraits. His artworks are famous for how they captured light and shadows.

Summer Day painting by George Leslie Hunter
Above: Summer Day, George Leslie Hunter 

On the Beach, South of France, George Leslie Hunter

Above: On the Beach, South of France, George Leslie Hunter 

This painting depicts the quintessential southern French beach scene. The soft, shining sea and distant mountains create a peaceful backdrop for the activity on the shore. Small rowing boats are pulled up onto the sand, while their owners lounge in the sun or paddle in the shallows.  The soft colours and loose brushwork create a sense of lazy contentment, while the shining water and distant mountains evoke a feeling of endless possibility. The palm trees behind the beach add a touch of exoticism, hinting at the warm climate that makes this region so appealing to visitors. Together, these elements come together to create an idyllic vision of a summer holiday.

These themes definitely run through many of John Dyer's paintings, especially the paintings of beach scenes he has done in the southern coast of France himself.

Above: 'Bobbing Boats, Hugh Town, St Mary’s’. 24x24 inches oil on canvas. Paintings of Cornwall by Cornish Artist Joanne Short, £1,495

Above: Ted Dyer Fine Art Print. Open Edition Cornish Art Print. 'Fishing Boats at Priest's Cove'


William Merrit Chase (1849-1916)

William Merritt Chase is an American Impressionist.

Chase's early paintings, were created using dark colours which reflected his initial training and influences in Munich; his later paintings of Shinnecock and Long Island were brighter, due to the later influence of French Impressionism.

Chase moved away from the old-master technique he had learned in Munich around 1880 and began to play around with a modified impressionist approach, lightening his palette and invigorating his picture surface with looser, more painterly brushwork. Chase continued to experiment with pastel and plein air painting as he worked through this new style of artwork away from his studio.

 William Merritt Chase, At the Seaside

Above: William Merritt Chase, At the Seaside, 1892 (Credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art) 

 Idle Hours, 1894, William Merritt Chase

Above: Idle Hours, 1894, William Merritt Chase 

In the late 1800s, the same industrialization and urbanization that made French beaches fashionable also took hold in the United States. Copying upper-class Americans who summered in resorts like Newport and Bar Harbour, the new middle class flocked to the seaside in summer to escape blistering New York City heat. From his house in the Hamptons, William Merritt Chase painted wealthy, fashionable women relaxing on pillows on the beach, while children sat playing on the sand.

Above: Ted Dyer Fine Art Print. Open Edition Cornish Art Print. 'Blue Skies, Godrevy'

 

Above: Cornwall Art Limited Edition Print. 'Happy Holidays, Perranporth Beach' by John Dyer


Philip Wilson Steer (1860-1942)

Philip Wilson Steer was an English landscape painter, son of a portrait painter Philip Steer (1810–1871). With Sickert (his friend and exact contemporary), Steer was the leader among the progressive British artists of his generation who looked to France and the impressionist movement for inspiration. He trained in Paris from 1882–1884.

 'Summer at Cowes' by artist Philip Wilson Steer

Above: 'Summer at Cowes' by artist Philip Wilson Steer

Beach at Walberswick, Philip Wilson Steer

Above: Beach at Walberswick, Philip Wilson Steer, 1889

At the peak of his painting career, Steer was producing beach paintings and seascapes that are regarded not only as his best works but also as some of the finest Impressionist pictures painted by an Englishman.

Above: Joanne Short Painting. Incoming Tide, St Mawes. 12 x 12 inches oil on canvas, £595


LS Lowry (1887-1976)
  LS Lowry, Yachts, 1959

Above: LS Lowry, Yachts, 1959 (Credit: The Lowry Collection, Salford) © The Lowry Collection, Salford . Photo credit: The Lowry Collection, Salford

 

Above: John Dyer Fine Art Print. Open Edition Cornish Art Print. 'Sunday Sailing, Fowey'

Lowry's works became well-known in the United Kingdom for their portrayals of industrial northern England: productive manufacturing plants, people trudging to work in factories and packed football stadiums. Lowry was interested in a changing contemporary Britain. His inspiration reached as far away as the coast however. The famous 'matchstick' people on the beach or the hunchbacked individuals in the rowing boats in the distance are symbols of a nation that has been revolutionized by war and industry. 

Fred Yates (1922-2008)

A more modern contemporary British artist, who himself was influenced by the work of TS Lowry, is the artist Fred Yates.

Fred Yates was a self-taught British artist, known for his plein-air paintings of the English landscape and cornish coast. Influenced by so-called naïve art, Yate’s work was a mixture of bold colours, loose brushwork, and child-like figures. Often, he layered paint on top of the canvas to create a thick, textured impasto. Born on July 25, 1922, Yates fought in the Second World War alongside his twin brother, who was killed at the Battle of Arnhem.

Yates moved to Cornwall in 1968, where he began painting colourful beach paintings with people enjoying themselves on their holidays.

 Fred Yates oil painting of Sennen in Cornwall

Above: Sennen Cove painting by Fred Yates

John Dyer met Fred Yates when he was a teenager and was inspired by Fred's use of paint, sheer spontaneity and the fun narrative he used to make his paintings so lively and fun.

 John Dyer Painting. Fishing boats and Fishermen, Sennen. 
12 x 10 inches, acrylic on canvas

Above: 'Fishing Boats and Fishermen, Sennen' painting by John Dyer


Conclusion

These are only a few of many artists that have been inspired by scenes of the beach to create their own paintings. There are so many more that I could include but these examples give you a taste of how varied and interesting they can be.

It is clear to see how looking at other artists' work, both famous and less well-known, can help to inspire our own paintings.

The John Dyer Gallery is full of paintings with coastal themes and I hope that after reading this blog post you will be encouraged to take a look at them with fresh eyes.