Beach Culture,A British Export
This summer millions of people will enjoy the cultural ritual of flocking to the beach to enjoy warm weather, swimming in the sea, sandcastles and picnics. Squeezing large bodies into tiny swimsuits and slathering themselves with expensive suncreams and oils citizens from around the globe will doze off on the sand believing in the benefits from sea and sun.
It hasn't always been like this. It is hard to find any paintings of the seaside before 1750.Before then the sea shore was regarded as a dangerous place to be. A place of sea monsters and shipwrecks , pirates,smugglers and a boundary between nations.
By the 1840s a change in attitude followed the recommendations of fashionable European doctors that the sea air ,exercise and cold water sea bathing had restorative effects on numerous ailments.One of the first seaside resorts was established at Scarborough on the chilly coast of Yorkshire,bathing machines were invented to enable chaste ladies to change into their swimming costumes beside the water.Even Queen Victoria had one at her seaside home on the Isle of Wight. More resorts followed at Brighton and Margate.This British export made its way to Coney Island in the U.S.A. , Normandy in France and parts of Germany ,Italy and Scandinavia.As railways expanded access to the coast became cheaper and it became within the grasp of working class families to visit this landscape of pleasure.Tourism was born.
During World War 2 the beaches of northwest Europe returned to no go areas as the Nazi regime turned them into borders to be defended or invavded. I was six years old before I saw the sea.My Dad borrowed my Grandpa's car and drove us to Cromer. With my dress tucked into my knickers I braved the cold North Sea for a paddle.I loved it.
Air travel has meant an ever increasing ability to find new and more unspoiled pristine sands and blue oceans far away.Our desire for exotic locations is endless.
In our pursuit of health and leisure we should heed the words of Rachel Carson who saw the history of the earth in "every grain of sand"A warning that the beach has a history that is fragile and could easily disappear.
1.One of the first artists to paint beach scenes was Eugene-Louis Boudin.Trouville in Normandy became a summer venue for fashionable Parisian aristocracy .
|On The Beach At Trouville, Boudin|
2.Boulogne became another favourite seaside destination in France.
|On The Beach at Boulogne, Degas|
3.Monet painted his wife, Camille , on several occasions.She has kept her parasol up to protect herself from the sun. Sun tans were not fashionable until the 1930s.
|Camille on The Beach at Trouville.Monet|
4.The American artist Winslow Homer was an early painter of beach scenes both at home and in Europe and the Carribean. His water colour paintings are exquisite.
|On The Beach, Winslow Homer|
5.Mary Cassatt was another American artist, defying convention she remained unmarried and moved to Paris to live and work among the Impressionist painters.
|Children Playing on The Beach,Mary Cassatt|
6.A painting from the 1940s.
|Scenes of American Life, Beach,Gertrude Goodwin|
7.Dangerous Work at Low Tide.A painting of officers removing a magnet mine planted in the oyster beds at Whitby by World War 2 artist Eric Ravilious.
|Dangerous Work at Low Tide,E. Ravilious|
Click on these links these links to find out where to see beach paintings :
7. Naval Officers Sent to Diffuse a Magnetic Mine
This painting is owned by the Ministry of Defence , unless you have a reason to go there you will have to wait until it is loaned to an exhibition to see the original.