Marine painting

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hendrick Cornelisz. Vroom : Dutch ship and fishing boat in a fresh breeze
Peter Lely : Peter Pett and the Sovereign of the Seas, ± 1645–1650
Abraham Storck : Frigate Pieter en Paul , the ship that Tsar Peter the Great helped build
Claude Lorrain : Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba, 1648
Clarkson Stanfield : Capture of the Spanish Xebeque Frigate El Gamo, 1845
Ivan Aivazovsky : The Ninth Wave, 1850 ( Russian Museum )
Alexander Kircher : The Sea Battle at Lissa , 1918 ( HGM )

The Marine Art is an area of painting, maritime issues pointing to paintings. A corresponding work is called a seascape . Until the 19th century, the sea, or the sea, was never shown alone; Watercraft of all types, sizes and numbers were the main themes. Marine painting as a subject is taken very broadly, it can also show landscapes, people and events and thus extends into several picture genres. The development as an independent topic began in the 16th century and flourished for the first time in the Netherlands in the 17th century .


The term “marine” painting for paintings with maritime content did not establish itself in German-speaking countries until the end of the 19th century. Participation in the propaganda for the Wilhelmine fleet plans made a particular contribution. Previously, the contents were named individually, e.g. B. sea storm, sea battle, beach. However, as early as the 18th century in France, maritime paintings were summarily referred to as marine (French). They were rather aesthetic works that can be attributed to the maritime landscapes. It is possible that the term “marine” painting also originated in this way from the French language, the respected language of the bourgeois and higher class. There has even been a Peintre Officiel de la Marine in France since 1830 . In the course of the 19th century, the term navy was used to refer to a country's naval forces. As a contrast to this and against the background of the nation-state idea, the term merchant marine was also used for merchant shipping . This made it possible to use the term for all types of maritime paintings with any watercraft marine painting to use. This term was then carried over to all forms of maritime representations. Seemalerei is also used synonymously and international sea ​​art, marine art, zeeschilderkunst, peinture marine.

Thematic delimitation

Because marine painting only differs from other painting themes by emphasizing a main maritime motif, it is difficult to distinguish it from other areas. There is also no literature devoted to a global overview. The existing studies relate either to an epoch, a region or a topic within marine painting. In research on the history of art , marine painting is then also dealt with in several genres. Landscape painting is preferred here as the overriding theme, often with the hint that z. B. Depictions of naval battles are to be assigned to other genres . Depending on their quality, topicality and purpose, these can be compared with event images , history painting and representation or memoria. Another important topic in marine painting was religion and mythology . Subjects from the Bible , e.g. B. Jonas and the whale , Jesus on the Sea of Galilee , Noah's ark , or the ancient world , z. B. The fall of Icarus , Odysseus or the battle for Troy , were used in ever new aspects and views. Individual works can also be assigned to still lifes and portraits . However, the maritime share of the context of meaning on representations of the meaning background or image background decreases. Something similar could be said about harbor, city, beach and river views in relation to landscape painting.

Since emblematics played an important role in art in the 17th century , allegorical interpretations can also be assumed for many naval images. Especially since the ship can be seen as a symbol in several ways. Be it that works can be read as the ship of life in storm pictures or as the state as a ship in sea battles. That is why the decorations and flags on the ships shown are often ambiguous. Really existing vehicles can be shown, which are arranged in a kind of vedute . But it is also possible to see only fantasy products based on reality. The problem in all of these cases is that the ships of the 17th and 18th centuries are also works of art and also represent three-dimensional allegories .

A special area of ​​marine painting is the captain's picture .

Since the thematic delimitation of marine painting is difficult, the subsequent designation of artists as marine painters is even more questionable. Because many also show motifs from other areas. Therefore the attribution, e.g. B. von Turner , Vernet or CD Friedrich , as a marine painter only valid for parts of her Œvre. In the case of other artists, who also have significant and well-known maritime motifs in their work, the description as a marine painter tends to be rejected. Examples are Peter Lely and Lyonel Feininger .

In addition to art or art history museums, a particularly large number of important works are also available in historical and especially maritime history collections. These works have often been viewed from a documentary perspective. As a result, actually existing meanings (e.g. allegory ) were lost and on the other hand the criticism of historical inaccuracies was overrated. With this fading out of the art history business, the importance of marine painters within art declined and received little attention from art history. It was not until the 1980s that the need for cooperation between art and shipping history was recognized and implemented in Germany.


16th Century

Paintings with maritime themes already existed in this century and mostly depict allegories from Christian or ancient mythologies . However, the problem here is that the artists depict contemporary ships and the actually intended image content is only recognizable to today's viewer through other details. In addition, works are known that are dedicated to contemporary real situations. In addition to mythology and praise of the rulers, cartographic paintings are also important for marine painting in this century . They mostly show cities and the source of their wealth or special importance in the form of lively shipping.

17th century

It developed into its own theme in the Netherlands in the 16th century and flourished for the first time in the 17th century. Hendrick Cornelisz is considered to be one of its founders . Vroom . Marine painting in the Netherlands of the Gouden Eeuw , the Golden Century, is usually structured in three time periods. Vroom is regarded as a representative of the first, color documentary period. Jan Porcellis and Simon de Vlieger as exponents of the middle, tonalistic stage. This should be followed by a phase from colourfulness to colorfulness. Abraham Storck can be cited as an example for this period .

For marine painting in the Netherlands, the artist-buyer relationship was particularly important - unlike in other European regions. Only here did the artist manage to sell works in reserve and without ordering. These smaller and less sophisticated works were sold in large quantities, even at fairs. That is why the artists did not exclusively produce works of a specific genre. Many producers therefore remained unknown and disappeared behind bigger names. Another phenomenon in the Netherlands was “amateur painting”: artists who did not paint for a living, but still created professional works.

For the 17th century, works from other European regions that can be addressed as marine painting are known only in individual copies. There was either a lack of a broader group of buyers for this topic or for orders this topic did not give the expected gain in prestige. Overall, it can be said that no artists specializing in maritime scenes can be identified. These were given to the better-known Dutch artists for special commissions. On the other hand, artists from the Netherlands tried to escape competition abroad. From today's perspective, the best known artists for this century are Jan van de Cappelle , Ludolf Backhuysen and father and son Willem van de Velde.

With the change in the political and social situation in Europe in the last third of the 17th century, the demand fell, but courts opened up for this topic in England and France. Both kingdoms paid increased attention to their fleets and invested. So that this was not only visible in the port and in the budget, but also at court and for their guests, not only individual works were commissioned, but even artists as royal marine painters (Willem van de Velde the Elder and Younger). Dutch marine painters went to England in particular, or mainly sold their works there, while France was only looking for models for its own artists. Marine painting is developing very differently in both countries. While one can speak of a tradition of the art of van de Veldes and Backhuysen for England or Great Britain, French marine painting insists on its own accents.

18th century

The continuation of the Dutch marine painting tradition in Great Britain can be seen e.g. B. in the works of Isaac Sailmaker , Adrien van Diest and Jacob Knyff . The next generation of marine painters in Great Britain were no longer associated with the Netherlands . Both Peter Monamy and Samuel Scott (ca. 1702–1772) tried their hand at copying and reinterpreting the works from the van de Veldes studio. Both put their own way of looking at their work. Even subsequent marine painters such as Charles Brooking , Robert Dodd and the Clevely and Serres families used the Dutch, especially van de Velde and Backhuysen, for templates. After the latter successfully published a series of engravings of his works, engravings of their works by marine painters can also be found in the 18th century.

What is striking about the works of all British marine painters of the century is the high proportion of military depictions. In addition to individual warships, there are fleet revues, individual battles and sea battles. Even during sea storms, military vehicles can predominantly be observed. The coastal representation is predominant in calm seascapes. What they all have in common is the emphatically naturalistic appearance in the drawing and coloring. Night pieces, port scenes and especially marine systems or administrative buildings are shown more frequently in marine painting. In the night pieces, special emphasis is placed on the contrast between light and darkness. What is new here, however, is the rendering of the specific light source: moonlight, cannon shots or burning ships. The range of topics presented was expanded particularly by John Clevely the Elder (approx. 1712–1777). Scenes showing docks, launching and model ships and portraits of ships and ports are new.

While a larger number of marine painters are known in Great Britain, the number is significantly lower in France. The most important representative is Claude Joseph Vernet (1714–1789). In addition to the major royal commission to show the French naval ports, he is known for his depictions of storms. His works are more like maritime landscapes than actual seascapes. Both his dramatic sea storms and his calm works show a sentimental and moralizing look. They belong in the tradition of the shepherd's idyll and the Italianisanten. With him, the genre representations come to the fore and thus combine landscape painting with the representation of history. His work influenced British marine painters, e. B. Dominic Serres and the Clevely Family. A French representative of the documentary and naturalistic style is Nicolas Ozanne .

It was only with the artists Philipp Jakob Loutherbourg the Younger (1740–1812) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) that the tradition of documentary depiction was abandoned in marine painting and a more personal, expressive form was introduced. Nautical details give way to emotional effects. Beginning with the shipwreck depictions of Vernet, the figures in the picture change from an allegory for humanity via the vedute to the characters in the picture. Influenced by the Enlightenment , the people are presented as acting people. In the 18th century, the rescue aspect will still predominate.

19th century

An example of the representation of an "empty sea" in which the forces of nature at sea play the main role. There is no sign of human activity. Thundering Sea , painting by Fritz W. Schulz

But already in Théodore Géricault'sRaft of the 'Medusa' ” from 1818/19, all human feelings are shown. The scene shown - a life raft on the open sea - is only the foil for showing human emotions. The artist used a lot of work from previous artists for this work. Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840), on the other hand, shows the landscape as a metaphor for life. Committed to romance, his works offer emotionally appealing images.

Following the understanding of Romanticism and Historicism, many marine painters endeavored to depict episodes and events from their national past. For this century, a great variety of individual interpretations of well-known maritime themes (storm, sinking, calm, sea battle) is striking. After a time with a particularly large number of dramatically pointed motifs (sea battle, shipwreck, sinking), they are replaced by quieter and more real scenes. These more prototypical representations lead to everyday realism and descriptions of the milieu. The representation of the "empty sea" is new. In the efforts of the romantics to show the infinity of the world, the paintings had fewer and fewer accessories. Friedrich gave his works a symbolic content of infinity through targeted light. Other artists were interested in depicting the power of waves and water. Instead, the waves on the rock were more effective than ships and people.

After the Napoleonic Wars , national sentiments were aroused across Europe. These general tendencies can also be found in marine painting. Now almost every country with a sea coast has marine painters. After a century of insignificance, artists in the Netherlands are picking up on traditional maritime themes with documentary accuracy. Painters such as Hermanus Koekkoek the Elder (1815–1882), Martinus Schoumann and Johannes Christiaan Schotel deliberately connect with the great time of Dutch marine painting. Just like these Dutchmen, Johan Christian Clausen Dahl, as a Scandinavian marine painter, gave his works a real geographical identification. These works can be identified topographically and as an action (“Medusa” Géricault). This fidelity to reality will only increase over the course of the century. For example, the former seaman and later highly successful British naval and landscape painter Clarkson Stanfield attached particular importance to the correct representation of even the smallest technical details on the painted ships. When composing the representation of great battles such as the Battle of Trafalgar (1836), he consulted precise records of the course of each battle as well as historical eyewitness accounts.

In 1883 in Atlantic City , Winslow Homer observed the demonstration of a distress rescue with a
trouser buoy in his painting The Life Line .

In Russia, Iwan Konstantinowitsch Aiwasowski (1817–1900) is the most important representative of this direction . In addition, many artists also depict historically glorious or significant events in the maritime history of their country. Théodore Gudin is a French example. The American painter and draftsman Winslow Homer (1836–1910) had a studio in Maine on the Atlantic coast with a view of the sea. Even countries with a short maritime tradition are infected by enthusiasm for the navy, and artists find commissions and sponsors for this topic, for example Alexander Kircher in Austria-Hungary or Hans Bohrdt and Willy Stöwer in Wilhelmine Germany .

With the technical development and social changes from the middle of the century, the picture in marine painting also changes, and new topics are dealt with. In addition to the “empty lakes” (only water and sky, no people, ships or land), human work is shown as heavy physical exertion and technical development is also shown as “progress”. Steam-powered ships are shown maneuvering against the wind, while sailing ships in the background are unable to maintain this course.

20th / 21st century

Ingo Kühl Seebild , 2014
Oil on canvas 150 × 200 cm

In the 20th century, many shipowners did without painted portraits of ships because the medium of photography was now available. One of the last German marine painters whose works were ordered to a large extent by shipping companies was Eduard Edler . Examples of contemporary painters who have devoted themselves to depicting the sea can be named: Rudolf Ressel († 2012), Gerhard Richter (* 1932), Werner Knaupp (* 1936), Hans-Peter Wirsing (1938–2009), Anselm Kiefer (* 1945), the Englishman John Virtue (* 1947), Bernd Zimmer (* 1948), Rainer Fetting (* 1949), Ingo Kühl (* 1953), Susanne Knaack (* 1962), Olaf Rahardt (* 1965).


Willy Stöwer in his studio

Ship models or partial models have repeatedly been mentioned as templates for marine painters or can be seen in photos by artists. There are photos of Edward William Cooke , Hendrik Willem Mesdag and Willy Stöwer with one or more ship models in their studios . It is uncertain to what extent these models are among the collections of maritime museums. According to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe , the most expensive painter's model is said to have been that of Jakob Philipp Hackert . To give Hackert an exclusive model of an exploding ship, an old ship from the Tsarina's fleet was set on fire in Livorno .

By the end of the 18th century, various marine painters also worked as painters, carvers and decorators in shipyards. Likewise, her work is not limited to paintings. Their maritime motifs can also be found on coffins, tapestries, tombs and sea chests. There are also known collaborations with portraitists, where they then designed the maritime background.


  • Laurens J. Bol: Dutch marine painting of the 17th century . 2nd edition Klinkhardt & Biermann, Munich 1982, ISBN 3-7814-0203-7 .
  • Alain Boulaire: Voiles et voiliers au temps de Louis XV et Louis XVI. Gravures et dessins des frères Ozanne. Peintures de Joseph Vernet (Voiliers des Côtes de France). Editions Du May, Paris 1992, ISBN 2-906450-84-7 .
  • Jörgen Bracker , Peter Tamm and others: painter of the sea. Marine painting over three centuries . Köhler Verlag, Herford 1980, ISBN 3-7822-0241-4 .
  • Frank B. Cockett: Peter Monamy 1681-1749 and his Circle . Antique Collectors' Club, Woodbridge 2000, ISBN 1-85149-339-5 .
  • David Cordingly: Nicholas Pocock 1740-1821 (Conway's Marine Artists; 1). Conway Maritime Press, London 1986, ISBN 0-85177-377-X .
  • Martin Faass u. a. (Ed.): Seascapes. From Caspar David Friedrich to Emil Nolde . Prestel, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-7913-3486-7 (catalog of the exhibition of the same name, Hamburger Kunsthalle, June 24 to September 11, 2005).
  • Rainer Fetting : Los Angeles Surfscapes . Kerber Verlag, Bielefeld 2004. ISBN 3-936646-99-6 .
  • Jeroen Giltaij, Jan Kelch (ed.): Lords of the seas, masters of art. The Dutch seascape in the 17th century . Bode-Museum, Berlin 1996, ISBN 90-6918-174-6 (catalog of the exhibition of the same name, March 31 to May 25, 1997).
  • Thomas Habersatter (Ed.): Ship ahead. Marine painting of the 14th to 19th centuries . Residenzgalerie, Salzburg 2005, ISBN 3-901443-25-8 (catalog of the exhibition of the same name, July 16 to November 1, 2005).
  • Hans Jürgen Hansen: German marine painter. Ship representations, maritime genre images . 1977.
  • David Joel: Charles Brooking 1723-1759 and the 18th Century British Marine Painters . Antique Collectors' Club, Woodbridge 2000, ISBN 1-85149-277-1 .
  • George S. Keyes: Mirror of empire. Dutch marine art of the seventeenth century . Antique Collectors' Club, Woodbridge 1990, ISBN 1-85149-277-1 .
  • Ingo Kühl : Nordsee - Südsee , catalog book for the exhibition Südsee - Wellen in the Ethnological Museum , Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Museen Dahlem 2004/2005, Verlag der Kunst Dresden, Verlagsgruppe Husum , Husum 2004, ISBN 3-86530-001-4 .
  • Sabine Mertens: Storm at sea and shipwreck. A study of the history of motives . Hinstorff Verlag, Rostock 1987, ISBN 3-356-00089-6 .
  • Boye Meyer-Friese: Marine painting in Germany in the 19th century (writings of the German Maritime Museum; 13). Stalling Verlag, Hamburg 1981, ISBN 3-7979-1540-3 (also dissertation, University of Kiel 1978).
  • Margarita Russell: Visions of the sea. Hendrick C. Vroom and the origins of Dutch marine painting (Publications of the Sir Thomas Browne Institute, Leiden / New Series; 2). Brill, Leiden 1983, ISBN 90-04-06938-0 .
  • Margarita Russell: Willem van de Velde de Jonge . Het IJ voor Amsterdam met de Gouden Leeuw (Palet series; 2). Becht, Bloemendaal 1992, ISBN 90-230-0768-9 .
  • Alan Russett: Dominic Serres RA 1719-1793. Was artist to the Navy . Antique Collectors' Club, Woodbridge 2001, ISBN 1-85149-360-3 .
  • Helge Siefert: Claude-Joseph Vernet 1714–1789 (studio exhibition). Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich 1997 (catalog of the exhibition of the same name, April 10 to July 6, 1997).
  • Werner Timm : Ships and their fate. Maritime event pictures . 2nd edition delius Klasing, Bielefeld 1977, ISBN 3-7688-0214-0 .
  • Michel Vergé-Franceschi, Eric Rieth: Voiles et voiliers au temps de Louis XIV. Edition critique des deux albums dits de Jouve et de l'Album de Colbert (Voiliers des Côtes de France). Editions Du May, Paris 1992, ISBN 2-906450-69-3 .

See also

Web links

Commons : Marine painter with works in Commons  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Commons : Examples of marine painting works  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. The statements of the individual sculptural elements on board the Vasa (1628) have been investigated for a long time and their significance is also researched with regard to the coloring:
  2. Sample image for Lyonel Feininger "Segel" viewed on May 31, 2015
  3. The National Maritime Museum , London, houses the largest collection
  4. ^ The Embarkation of Henry VIII
  5. ^ Battle off the Port of Naples
  6. ^ Ludolf Backhuysen: D'Y stroom en zeegezichten
  7. Le Radeau de la Meduse
  8. Jacques Cartier découvre le fleuve Saint-Laurent. 1535
  9. Thomas Habersatter (ed.), Ship ahead. Marine painting of the 14th to 19th centuries. Exhibition catalog, Salzburg 2005, 264.
  10. Margate (?), From the Sea ( Memento of the original from January 26th, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  11. picture example
  12. ^ The steam auxiliary Indiaman 'Earl of Hardwick' under way
  13. Erik Hoops: Marine painter from passion , in: Deutsche Schiffahrt 35 (2013) 1, pp. 18-22.
  14. [1]  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /