Beginning in the 17th century we can track many changes in style in Euro-American art history through harbor-scapes.
Maritime business success in the 1600s in Holland created a new type of collector. This new merchant class affirmed their status through art collecting. These were successful merchants who gathered luxury items and curiosities from around the world. Many of these elements would appear in the still-life paintings they collected. Additionally, they took an interest in their workplace, in the harbor-life of Dutch ports and the commercial shipping that brought them their wealth.
The Dutch fascination with seascapes and harbor-scapes would spread to England and France. By the early 19th century English artists like J.M.W. Turner, Constable, and Richard Parkes Bonnington broadened the spectrum and treatment of harbor and coastline subjects. On both sides of the English Channel artists had discovered an extensive market for their harbor and coastline paintings.
If we begin in the latter half of the 1800s we find artists like Charles Pecrus creating semi-impressionist images of favorite harbors like Honfleur (example 1). The imagery here reflects sensitivity to the contemporary techniques of Impressionism while it continues to offer a legible image of harbor life and commercial ships.
Example 1. Charles Pecrus, painting of Honfleur Harbor.
And, later in the 1800s neo-Impressionists and then later fauve painters like Henri Saint-Denis (example 2) continued to find market and aesthetic utility in Harborscapes.
Example 2. Henri Saint-Denis with his Fauvist vision of Honfleur.
In the second and third decades of the 20th Century Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso had a large following of aspiring cubists. Some, like Pierre Hode would apply the new style to harbor life (example 3).
Example 3. Pierre Hode with a 1923 modified cubist view of Honfleur.
The Pairing of Harbors and fishing boats with adventures in contemporary art continued with the expressive gestural experiments of American Ashcan artists like John Sloan, George Bellows (example 4) and Randall Davey (example 5).
Example 4. George Bellows with his New York harbor painting from 1912.
Example 5. Randall Davey 1913 expressive painting of Monhegon’s harbor.
I too continue to find commercial fishing harbors as resource and muse for experiments with color, texture and shape. After a recent visit to the fishing fleet at Galilee, Rhode Island I explored the motion and vivid color contrasts in a few small works seen here in examples 6, 7, and 8. Example 8 represents a small 12×18” demonstration piece while the other examples are larger but still exploratory as I tried this traditional genre.
Example 6, smaller quick demonstration piece, 12×18, oil,
Example 7. Blue on Blue, 22×24, oil on enameled laminated aluminum,
Example 8, In Harbor, 24×24, oil on enameled laminated aluminum,
A single spot has opened for an artist to join me in my workshop in the Catskills in July (a 5 day workshop, July 22 through July27). If you are interested contact Hudson River Valley Workshops or www.artworkshops.com
My show of 45 new works continues at Susan Powell Fine Art in Madison, CT. through July 8.