Among the many different scenes and settings that an artist might focus on when producing a landscape painting, beaches provide a totally distinct and colorful subject matter.
Throughout the world’s beaches, artists have sought to paint a wide range of activities and traditional items such as sailing ships, fishermen and people lounging about on the sandy shores.
Here are our selections for the 10 most famous beach paintings ever created, along with a bit of information about the artists that created these works.
Famous Beach Paintings
1. On the Beach (Sur la Plage) – Édouard Manet
Édouard Manet was one of the most well-known Impressionist artists in France during the mid-19th century. During a time when ocean sailing vessels were becoming extinct, Manet produced a number of paintings that captured the grace and beauty of these massive ships using the characteristic Impressionist style.
One of his more famous works that pertains to life along the beach is aptly-named On the Beach (Sur la Plage). This 1873 oil painting depicts two people, a man and woman, sitting on the beach watching the ships sail by in the distance.
The colorful work is as symbolic as any that was done around this period and Manet’s placement of the ships far out into the horizon seem to indicate the fact that this method of ocean travel was quickly coming to an end, fading into the distance.
2. Tahitian Women on the Beach – Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin was one of the more adventurous French painters that lived during the 19th century and many of his works are evidence of his desire for traveling to exotic islands.
He spent many years living on the islands of Tahiti and other surrounding islands in the Pacific as he was fascinated with the culture and the people on them.
One of Gauguin’s most well-known series of paintings was done with a focus specifically on the island of Tahiti and its people.
In a series of works that’s titled Tahitian Women on the Beach, the artist crafted various scenes in which the women are seated on a blanket and dressed in both modern attire, as well as the traditional Tahitian cultural clothing that was known to be worn at this time and in earlier eras.
3. The Monk by the Sea – Caspar David Friedrich
Caspar David Friedrich is remembered as a prolific artist that produced numerous iconic works throughout his life during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Many of Friedrich’s paintings display his own sense of wanderlust and the subject of some of his greatest works are associated with exploration and admiring the world’s greatest landscapes.
One of his most well-known works is titled The Monk by the Sea and was completed sometime around 1808 or 1810, according to art historians.
Known as a Romantic artist, Friedrich’s paintings often invoked a sense of awe when it comes to nature and this one is no different. The work depicts a monk standing next to the sea shore as the skies above, as well as the ocean, stretch outward and upward.
One can easily get the sense that the monk certainly must be feeling, which is that the world’s oceans are so vast and humans are so small and seemingly insignificant.
4. The Beach at Trouville – Claude Monet
Claude Monet is widely-recognized for his Impressionist style paintings that usually depict life in and around France during the mid-to-late 19th century. He is considered to be one of the greatest artists from this movement and his works are among the most famous of any French painter from this time period.
In 1870, Monet painted a series of paintings that depicted people lounging around on the beach in what must have been a common sight for anyone that lived along France’s southern coast during this time.
The series is known as The Beach at Trouville and contains works that focus mainly on the beach instead of on the ocean itself. One can see Monet’s masterful use of sunlight and shadow in the people, their clothing, as well as the buildings that sit along the seashore.
5. Two Women Running on the Beach – Pablo Picasso
Despite being known as an artist that usually painted in a distinct, somewhat indistinguishable style, Pablo Picasso created a few paintings that specifically focus on life at the beach.
He was born in Malaga, Spain, which is part of the Costa del Sol and it is true that Picasso spent a great deal of time at or around the beach during his youth.
It was these beach settings that would be the subject matter for some of Picasso’s earlier works, which would turn out to be some of the most iconic beach paintings in existence.
The title of one such work is Two Women Running on the Beach and was done in 1922. This painting depicts two women running, hand-in-hand, along the beach.
The features of the women, as well as the beach, seem to be slightly distorted and portrayed in a manner that is similar to many other works done by Picasso. It was painted on a very small canvas and is considered his most important miniature work.
6. Women Walking on the Beach (Paseo a orillas del mar) – Joaquín Sorolla
Joaquín Sorolla is another highly-recognized Spanish painter from a slightly earlier time period as Picasso. Sorolla created works in a style that was distinctly Impressionist in many ways, with a greater attention to detail than most of his colleagues within the 18th and 19th century movement.
He lived much of his life along Spain’s coast and created a number of beautiful and unique works that center around life at the beach in late 19th century Spain.
One of Sorolla’s most famous paintings from his later career is known as Women Walking on the Beach (Paseo a orillas del mar).
This 1909 painting is another that has become iconic in terms of beach paintings in the last few centuries.
The work shows two women, dressed in elegant clothing that was common for the upper class of the early 20th century walking along the sandy beach.
7. Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries – Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh is widely considered to be one of the most famous Impressionist artists from the late 19th century.
Although he was plagued with mental illness and had a relatively short career as an artist, van Gogh is still considered one of the greatest painters from the last 500 years, according to many critics and scholars. He specifically focused, for many years, on outdoor scenes from nature.
One of his lesser-known works that is seen as a famous painting series that depicts life along the coast is titled Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries.
Finished in 1888 near the end of his life, these works portray the beach and the ocean in the characteristic style that van Gogh had.
He managed to depict the movement of the waves with each brushstroke and crafted each work in a way that captured the peaceful nature of the coast.
8. Miranda – The Tempest – John William Waterhouse
John William Waterhouse is one of the more well-known painters from the Romantic movement. Born in England, life at sea and along the coast was very familiar to Waterhouse and many of his works reflect this.
He created a series of paintings that focus on the female form standing next to magnificent coastal scenes.
One such painting is titled Miranda – The Tempest and displays a woman standing next to a rocky shoreline as a storm approaches.
Finished in 1916, this is one of the few paintings in the Romantic style that is capable of depicting the blustery winds and crashing waves of the sea.
9. Idle Hours – William Merritt Chase
William Merritt Chase may not be as well-known as some of his colleagues from the Impressionist movement, but one of his paintings is certainly among the most famous depictions that portray a beach setting.
The work is simply titled Idle Hours and was finished in 1894. It is famous for Chase’s masterful use of composition to include the beach, land and sea, as well as the skies and clouds.
This painting is considered one of Chase’s greatest works and represents one of the few paintings from an American artist during the Impressionist era that dominated the later 19th century.
10. Beach in Pourville – Claude Monet
Our list of famous beach scenes would not be complete without the inclusion of another one of Monet’s works that many consider to be among his best.
Many works by Monet and other artists that center around the French coast focus heavily on the southern coast, but one of his paintings depicts the striking beauty of the northern coastline of France.
The work is titled Beach in Pourville and was completed in 1882. It is famous for the masterful perspective that Monet crafted, as well as the soft colors that seem to be forever associated with the beach.