Seascape Painting Inspiration (Plus 9 Famous Seascape Painters)

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The seascape is a fantastic and versatile subject for painting. You could paint the glassy water on a calm day, or the crashing waves of the ocean during a storm.

One of the reasons the seascape is such a popular subject is because of the unique way water seems to capture and reflect all the surrounding colors. This can be a challenge to paint, but the outcome can be stunning.

This post will feature some of the top seascape painters and will hopefully provide you with some seascape painting inspiration.

Joaquín Sorolla

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (27 February 1863 – 10 August 1923) was known for his beautifully fluid style of painting. His paintings appear incredibly realistic, yet effortless. This style seems to work well for painting water.

Pictured below are two completely different seascape paintings. The first captures the translucent blue-greens of the calm water. The second captures the crashing waves with the use of dark grays and blues.

Here are some more paintings by Sorolla.

Joaquin Sorolla, San Vicente Cape
Joaquin Sorolla, San Vicente Cape
Joaquin Sorolla, Seascape, 1904
Joaquin Sorolla, Seascape, 1904

Albert Bierstadt

Albert Bierstadt (January 7, 1830 – February 18, 1902) was known for his grand and naturalistic landscape paintings of the American West. He also has many stunning paintings of the seascape.

Albert Bierstadt, The Wave, 1880
Albert Bierstadt, The Wave, 1880
Albert Bierstadt, Nassau Harbor, 1877
Albert Bierstadt, Nassau Harbor, 1877

Claude Monet

Claude Monet (14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926) painted pretty much anything to do with the environment. His broken color approach to painting seems to be extremely effective for depicting water. When you look up close at Monet’s paintings of water, you can see almost a mess of different greens, blues, yellows and grays. But you step back and it just seems to blend together.

Additional readings regarding Claude Monet:

The Many Paintings Of Water Lilies By Claude Monet

How Claude Monet Documented Light Using The Rouen Cathedral

How Claude Monet Used Haystacks To Demonstrate Light and Color

Quotes by the Impressionist Master Claude Monet

Claude Monet, The Manneport, Reflections Of Water, 1885
Claude Monet, The Manneport, Reflections Of Water, 1885
Claude Monet, Impression, Sunrise, 1872
Claude Monet, Impression, Sunrise, 1872
Claude Monet, The Cliffs at Etretat, 1855
Claude Monet, The Cliffs at Etretat, 1855

Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet

Jean Gustave Courbet (10 June 1819 – 31 December 1877) was a French Realist painter, but some of his seascape paintings seem to verge more towards impressionism. In the first painting below, notice in the sky the subtle color changes within a very narrow value range. The painting below that, on the other hand, features a strong contrast between dark clouds and clear blue sky. It is so difficult to imitate the blue of a sky, but Courbet seems to have done a great job in this painting. The blue almost seems to glow.

Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet, Beach at Dieppe, The Fishing Boat
Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet, Beach at Dieppe, The Fishing Boat
Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet, Eternity
Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet, Eternity

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky

I could not write about inspirational seascape paintings without mentioning the great Ivan Aivazovsky (29 July 1817 – 2 May 1900). Ivan Aivazovsky was a Russian Romantic painter who was renowned for his grand seascape paintings which displayed incredible detail and use of color.

Ivan Aivazovsky, The Ninth Wave, 1850
Ivan Aivazovsky, The Ninth Wave, 1850
Ivan Aivazovsky, Storm At Sea On A Moonlit Night
Ivan Aivazovsky, Storm At Sea On A Moonlit Night
Ivan Aivazovsky, Seascape
Ivan Aivazovsky, Seascape

Joseph Mallord William Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner (23 April 1775 – 19 December 1851) was an English Romantic painter who created many atmospheric and almost chaotic marine paintings. Though not all his paintings are like this. Many of his earlier works displayed a much more delicate style (like the third painting pictured below).

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Snow Storm
J.M.W. Turner, Snow Storm
J.M.W. Turner, Goldau, 1841
J.M.W. Turner, Goldau, 1841
Joseph Mallord William Turner, Rotterdam Ferry-Boat, 1833
J.M.W. Turner, Rotterdam Ferry-Boat, 1833

Winslow Homer

Winslow Homer (February 24, 1836 – September 29, 1910) was an American painter who was best known for his seascape paintings. He was experienced with both watercolors and oils. His watercolor paintings have a simple elegance to them, whilst his oil paintings appear dramatic and moody. One thing I notice about Winslow Homer’s seascape paintings is the overall lack of color. He relied mostly on grays.

Additional reading regarding Winslow Homer:

Inspirational Quotes By Winslow Homer

Winslow Homer, The Herring Net, 1885
Winslow Homer, The Herring Net, 1885
Winslow Homer, Fishing Boats, Key West, 1903
Winslow Homer, Fishing Boats, Key West, 1903

Childe Hassam

In stark contrast to Winslow Homer’s seascape paintings, Childe Hassam was not hesitant to use vibrant color in his seascapes. In many of his paintings he used a broken color technique to create this beautiful vibration of color (similar to Claude Monet).

Childe Hassam, The East Headland, Appledore - Isles Of Shoals, 1908
Childe Hassam, The East Headland, Appledore – Isles Of Shoals, 1908
Childe Hassam, Duck Island From Appledore, 1911
Childe Hassam, Duck Island From Appledore, 1911

Katsushika Hokusai

This is one of the most famous seascape artworks by Katsushika Hokusai named “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa”. It is actually a woodblock print, not a painting, but I thought it was worth a mention. It was published sometime between 1829 and 1833.

Hokusai, The Great Wave Off Kanagawa
Hokusai, The Great Wave Off Kanagawa

Want to Learn More?

You might be interested in my Painting Academy course. I’ll walk you through the time-tested fundamentals of painting. It’s perfect for absolute beginner to intermediate painters.

Thanks for Reading!

I appreciate you taking the time to read this post and I hope you found it helpful. Feel free to share it with friends.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy

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14 comments on “Seascape Painting Inspiration (Plus 9 Famous Seascape Painters)”

  1. Thank you this was beautiful, I love doing seascapes myself, self taught and learning, I really enjoy your mails

    Reply
  2. I always look forward to your motivating teaching emails!!
    We have just retired to the SC coast… I am oil painting and especially focused on seascapes.
    Thanks!

    Reply
  3. I always look forward to your motivating teaching emails!!
    We have just retired to the SC coast… I am oil painting and especially focused on seascapes.
    Thanks!

    Reply
  4. This are amazing works of art. I didn’t know Bierstadt did seascapes! I am working through your Painting Academy which is very helpful for me as a beginner. I am using oils. I find myself trying to get too much detail – but then am confused about what I really want to do as some of these painters have amazing detail. I just don’t know yet how to do detail correctly. Practice, practice. Thanks so much for all the help.

    Reply
    • Hi Joan. Yes he did a fair few actually!

      As you said, practice practice. The balance between knowing what to include and what not to include will always be a challenge. It is what makes some of the masters so great. So don’t get discouraged. My suggestion would be to ask yourself what really interests you about the scene you are trying to paint, then focus on that.

      Dan

      Reply
  5. I too, look forward to your inspiring emails ..I live in France ..it hit 40 degrees today…the sky’s luminosity is amazing here!
    I love seascapes and the movement of the waves…
    Happy birthday and thanks for your posts
    Shirley

    Reply
  6. Dan this is an amazing & very helpful collection of sea scape painters, the most difficult subject to paint the ocean with clouds in a dramatic way.
    You are a wonderful teacher!!!! Blessings.

    Reply
  7. Love this post! So many paintings I have never seen. I live on an island so these are the kind of things I wish to paint, including herring boats and fishing. Thanks so much!

    Reply

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