The Power Of The Sea – Making waves in British art 1790-2014 || Janette Kerr & Christiana Payne

This is the catalogue of an exhibition at the Royal West of England Academy. However, it also stands alone and contains much useful background material that covers the history of maritime painting as well as the practical aspects of painting such subjects, what the sea means to those who commit themselves to it and even a discourse on the structure of waves.

The main meat of it is the catalogue, though, which is an excellent and representative selection of paintings that include works by Constable and Turner as well as Francis Danby, Walter Langley and John Piper from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and Kurt Jackson and Terry Setch from the contemporary section. The division into those two sections is unusual, and does rather place the emphasis on the last fourteen years, but I don’t think this detracts from the book. The exhibition, of course, flows as it does.

All of the entries are chronological, so it is possible to see styles and movements develop in front of you and there are handy label descriptions of each painting that introduce both the piece and its artist.

This is not, nor does it attempt to be, an exhaustive survey, but the entries are well-chosen and representative of the times and places they stand for. As an overview of the history of British maritime painting, it’s hard to beat.

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