Water is a fascinating subject for artists. How best to capture waves, ripples and reflections, how to paint eddying, swirling, translucent water? A refreshing art tour across the centuries.
Too tall to surf
The Great Wave off Kanagawa, a woodblock print created around 1830 by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, has gained such fame that it even exists in the form of an emoji. Part of a series of landscapes the artist created later in life at around the age of 70, it is one of the world’s most famous art designs.
Cooling off by the river
In 1884, French post-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat depicted a group of young men bathing in the Seine on a hot summer day. The bridge in the Paris suburb of Asniere-sur-Seine is visible in the background. Seurat tries to capture the heat on the riverbank with hazy light, the almost white sky, the languid, silent figures as they looll about the water’s edge.
Naked in Provence
Bathers were among the favorite motifs of French impressionist Paul Cezanne. Unlike the quiet men in Seurat’s painting, Cezanne’s 1874 portrait of bathing women shows ladies clearly having a good time in the sparkling blue river water; while the fact they’re nude shows they are bathing among themselves. Back in the day, this nude bathing image did not have to content with Facebook censorship.
Classic water lilies
Claude Monet was over the age of 50 and not doing well financially when he planted his garden in Giverny – which inspired the motif for his most famous series of paintings. From then on, he painted every corner of his garden, including water lilies in various formats. The above painting is dated 1915, and the unusually large water lily picture of 2 by 12 meters is on display in New York’s MoMa.
David Hockney created a whole series of swimming pool paintings in the 1970s, usually of his own pool overlooking the Los Angeles hills. After the British artist’s move to California, this patio and his house were the center of the artist’s existence. For a long time he was loathe to leave his poolside paradise.
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