Brush Strokes: The Classics

In classic art, the Ocean is frequently featured as a dark and dangerous entity, waiting to destroy ships and lives. Marine art progressed along with the evolution of ocean going vessels. Swell-producing tempests and shorebreak mayhem, smashing boats to pieces are common subjects of classic seascapes. In many examples, classic artists painted waves with illuminated skill and menacing detail. In this gallery, we’ll take at look at waves in historical fine art.

The coast and waves are a common theme of Japanese painters and printmakers throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

The most famous depiction of waves in art history is Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.” “The Great Wave” is first in Hokusai’s series entitled “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji,” produced in the ukiyo-e style of woodblock print making. The artist portrays an iconic and beautiful peak about to smash a fleet of fishing boats…or do they quickly turn their boats and ride the wave safely to shore? Maybe a few of the fishermen jump out and bodysurf the wave to safety…

"The Great Wave off Kanagawa"- Katsushika Hokusai 1829
“The Great Wave off Kanagawa”- Katsushika Hokusai 1829
The Sea off Satta- Utagawa Hiroshige 1859
“The Sea off Satta”- Utagawa Hiroshige 1859
Wreck of the King Philip- Gideon Jacques Denny 1878
“Wreck of the King Philip”- Gideon Jacques Denny 1878
"La Vague"- Gustave Courbet 1870
“La Vague”- Gustave Courbet 1870
"Seascape"- Pierre-Auguste Renoir 1879
“Seascape”- Pierre-Auguste Renoir 1879
"Pourville, Flood Tide"- Claude Monet 1882
“Pourville, Flood Tide”- Claude Monet 1882
The Seashore- Leon Dabo 1900
“The Seashore”- Leon Dabo 1900

Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) is best known for his dramatic landscape paintings of the frontier Western United States. But as seen here, he beautifully captured breaking waves and the power of the sea.

The Wave- Albert Bierstadt 1880
“The Wave”- Albert Bierstadt 1880

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (1817-1900) was a Russian Romantic painter best known for his marine art.

"Ninth Wave"- Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky 1850
“Ninth Wave”- Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky 1850

Winslow Homer (1836-1910) was an American landscape painter, known for his seascapes. 


Famous Seascape Paintings
Japanese Wave Paintings

Albert Bierstadt

Ode to the Ocean


Giant playground. Massive graveyard.
Lore and mythology. Heroes and demons.
Kanaloa, Neptune, Poseidon and Amphitrite
Hydra, The Kraken and Jaws
It’s mystery inspires fear.
The immensity encourages exploration.
The Ocean.
Absorbs red light, leaving behind…
The Deep Blue Sea.

Salt washed from rocks, flows to the sea.
97% of Earth’s water is saltwater.
The Ocean covers 72% of Earth’s surface.
Influencing everything.
Shaping coastlines. Every wave, every tide change.
Eroding land. Moving sediments.
Climate engine.
The Ocean soaks up solar energy and transports it.
Driving the atmosphere.
The Ocean absorbs wind energy.
Fetch makes swell.
Swell makes waves.
The Ocean is the medium, the wind is the force.
Our joy is the result.

Incredible marine biodiversity.
From vibrant reefs to the strange depths.
Astounding creatures abound.
Beautiful, vital and endangered ecosystems.
Demanding our respect and care.
Our family tree goes back billions of years,
to ancestors surviving in the Sea.
Our branch of life left the Ocean. But we’re drawn back.
Deeply connected to the source.