Fig 5. Frank Griffith (1889-1979), Sea Study, oil on panel, 10 x 15.75in.Worth £50-100. Griffith was a pupil of Walter Sickert. This is only a sketch but Griffith is exploring the way in which strata of colour can define depth from the shore, then out to sea and so to the horizon under the sky.The sense of the enormity of the waters is caught well and the technique suggests that Griffith was working with confidence and speed.Although this is almost abstract, it catches ably the atmosphere of the shoreline. Achieving this with apparently simple horizontal brushstrokes is somewhat harder than it looks.
presented a whole new challenge.An ocean of water stretching to the horizon does not offer the `aerial perspective` of the green foreground, brown middle ground and blue distance sought when painting on land. It becomes problematic to describe the vastness of a body of water without these points of reference (see fig 5 again).And then, in addition to all these various considerations, the tantalising problem arises of just how to paint something that is never truly still or that may be whipped by wind and rain into a boiling, tumultuous storm (see fig 6).The almost comically implausible difficulty of 67year old J.W.W.Turner being strapped to the mast of a vessel before heading out of Harwich into a North Sea tempest for four hours to paint his Snowstorm (1842) has been related many times. Even if one allows for just a little licence in the telling, it proves Turner’s determination to get up close to nature and his true ‘Romantic’ spirit is evident.
WHATTO LOOK FOR How can a collector determine whether or not a seascape is a good example of its kind? I have chosen a dozen seascapes and I think that each makes a valid point about the artists’ abilities to capture on paper or on canvas this most capricious and protean element of nature.
COLOUR In a watercolour, colour is always vital and one may say that it is of special relevance in a seascape. Brownish or russet `earth` tones result from the discolouration of Prussian blue and rarely make a seascape look natural. In fig 7, Copley Fielding’s palette has faded and so an ironic preponderance of sandy
Fig 6. John Falconer Slater (1857-1937), The Churning Surf, signed, oil on canvas, 13.5 x 21.5in. £400,April 2014. Facing the strong winds and tides of the North East coast, Slater’s seascapes have a chilling, unsentimental, masculine straightforwardness. His semiImpressionistic technique was admirable.
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