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An Ode to the Ocean in a Gallery of Beautiful Paintings!

 Art is an incredible expression of life, love, and beauty. With every bold stroke of a paintbrush or scratch of a pencil, passion comes alive and in more than one place! Artists have spent millennia showing us that interests don't need to be mutually exclusive. For the sailor at heart, the sea can be the most inspiring source of creativity, untamed and ever-changing yet still and silent when she chooses to be. Marine art has paved its way through the centuries, solidifying itself as a major category in the art world. 

Depicting sailboats as they scuffle through powerful storms, ships engaging in death-defying battles, and even stories from mythology that took place over the unsettling waters of an angry ocean, all the great artists have dabbled with marine paintings. These are just a few of the most noteworthy works of art that honor ships, boats, ferries, rafts, and of course, their lovely mistress, the sea. Let's set sail through this gallery of marine masterpieces!

1. The Gulf Stream 

Marine art and paintings inspired by the sea, ships and sailing by famous artists, The Gulf Stream

(By Winslow Homer, Wikimedia Commons)   

This 1899 painting by Winslow Homer shows us a scene from a location he was constantly inspired by, the Gulf Stream between the Gulf of Mexico and the tip of Florida. It depicts a man in a small rudderless fishing boat struggling against powerful waves.

2. Watson and the Shark 

Marine art and paintings inspired by the sea, ships and sailing by famous artists, Watson and the Shark

(By John Singleton Copley, Wikimedia Commons)  

This 1778 oil painting by American artist John Singleton Copley depicts a daring rescue of a young boy being attacked by a shark. The painting was based on an actual shark attack that occurred in 1749 in Havana Harbor, during which the young boy lost his leg, though the painting subtly hides the gory details. 

3. Seascape at Saintes-Maries (Fishing Boats at Sea)

Marine art and paintings inspired by the sea, ships and sailing by famous artists, Seascape at Saintes-Maries (Fishing Boats at Sea)

(By Vincent van Gogh, Wikimedia Commons)   

This 1888 painting by the renowned artist Vincent Van Gogh is a part of a series of 3 paintings and 9 drawings completed in just a few days. Van Gogh was inspired to create this beauty and its counterparts during a trip to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, a stunning sea-side fishing town off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. 

4. Flooding at Port-Morly 

Marine art and paintings inspired by the sea, ships and sailing by famous artists, Flooding at Port-Morly

(By Alfred Sisley, Wikimedia Commons)   

This painting was created by Alfred Sisley in 1876. Sisley actually created 2 series of paintings with the same title, one in 1872 which consisted of 7 works of art, and the other in 1876 which consisted of 4 works. Only the whereabouts of 2 paintings from the second series are currently known, including the painting above.  

5. Impression, Sunrise

Marine art and paintings inspired by the sea, ships and sailing by famous artists, Impression, Sunrise

(By Claude Monet, Wikimedia Commons)   

An 1872 oil painting by prolific creator Claude Monet, this painting shows us the harbor at Le Havre, an urban French commune and hometown of the artist. It was one of six paintings completed by him during a visit to Le Havre in 1872, and after its debut in 1874, it quickly became the most famous. 

6. Ship Starlight

Marine art and paintings inspired by the sea, ships and sailing by famous artists, Ship Starlight

(By Fitz Henry Lane, Wikimedia Commons)   

This 1860 painting by American artist Fitz Henry Lane is 1 of 2 created by him and depicts a large ship out at sea towering over smaller vessels. While it is not known for certain, it is believed that the Starlight was an American clipper built in 1854 and dispatched with the Glidden & Williams' line of clippers that traveled between Boston and California. 

7. The Maas at Dordrecht

Marine art and paintings inspired by the sea, ships and sailing by famous artists, The Maas at Dordrecht

(By yigruzeltil, WikiArt)   

This 1650 oil painting by Dutch Golden Age artist Aelbert Cuyp is often compared to a painting by Jan van Goyen which similarly depicts the city of Dordrecht, also known as Dordt or Dort, located in Western Netherlands. However, this painting gained much more fame, as the river Maas is shown as being the location of a lot of activity, believed by many to be a depiction of a symbolic event that occurred in 1646. 

8. Max Schmitt in a Single Scull

Marine art and paintings inspired by the sea, ships and sailing by famous artists, Max Schmitt in a Single Scull

(By Thomas Eakins, Wikimedia Commons)   

This oil painting was created in 1871 by the American realist painter Thomas Eakins and depicts a man named Max Schmitt, an actual friend of the artist and a professional rower. Eakins happened to return to Philadelphia in 1870 and witness one of Max Schmitt’s greatest athletic victories which inspired him to create this painting. In honor of the triumphant moment captured in this painting, it also goes by the names “The Champion Single Sculls” or “The Champion, Single Sculls”. 

9. Red Boats at Argenteuil

Marine art and paintings inspired by the sea, ships and sailing by famous artists, Red Boats at Argenteuil

(By Claude Monet, Wikimedia Commons)   

This painting by Claude Monet was created in 1875 and captures a series of bright red boats as they make their way past other boats at the harbor of Argenteuil, a town located northwest of Paris. Argenteuil was one of Monet’s favorite locations and many of his paintings feature various objects and places found all over the French town. 

10. The Battle of the Kearsarge and the Alabama

Marine art and paintings inspired by the sea, ships and sailing by famous artists, The Battle of the Kearsarge and the Alabama

(By Édouard Manet, Wikimedia Commons)  

This oil painting created in 1864 by Edouard Manet depicts the Battle of Cherbourg, a naval battle fought during the American Civil War between the USS Kearsarge, a Union Cruiser, and the CSS Alabama, a Confederate Raider. Many people residing on the French coast could see the ships as they engaged in battle. Though Manet was not one of the witnesses, he created his painting based on numerous recollections and descriptions. 

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