Situated in a picturesque setting of crashing surf and powdery sand, your own oceanfront home is itself the perfect fodder for a postcard scene. To keep the easy, breezy, ambience alive inside your beachfront estate, we polled experts to see what it takes to create the ultimate collection of sea-inspired art. By, Anna Kasabian
If you find yourself migrating to sea-themed art for your oceanfront home, youÂ’re not alone. People who have a passion for the views and topography outside their homes frequently end up weaving a sea theme into their dÃ©cor via art and sculpture. After all, when night comes, so go those views you love, notes Barbara Jones of the Jones & Terwilliger Gallery in Carmel, California.
But itÂ’s not just the views that entice us to live at the oceanÂ’s edge. There is a special spirit here. The light is different, the moods dramatic, the sounds intoxicating, and being this close to nature–well, it just speaks for itself.
Â“ThereÂ’s something very human in the connection with the sea,Â” says Suzanne M. King, director of Galerie dÂ’Orsay in Boston. Â“ThereÂ’s a great sense of profundity and tranquility; you are at peace. But you also realize how small you are and how grand life can be. She adds, Â“As a person who lives by the ocean and grew up there, I understand what it means to peopleÂ—the feeling and expression the ocean brings into our lives.Â”
The work of artist Giner Bueno featured at JonesÂ’s gallery is an excellent example of an artist whose work not only captures a sea theme, but also brings it down to a very personal level. It portrays the lifestyle of an eraÂ—the fishing, the socializing, the children playing, says Jones. Of course, there are many ways to build around this theme. The coastlines and islands of the world could become a collection, as could the moods of the ocean, sunsets, moonlit waters, and sailing vessels. Â“The list goes on,Â” Jones says. Also, thereÂ’s no need to stick to a single era, artist, or medium. Â“Good art goes with good art,Â” Jones says. Â“You can hang abstract, contemporary, and Impressionistic [pieces] next to each other.Â”
William Craig of Haley and Steele, Boston says when he is called upon for an art consultation, one of the first things he helps owners to determine is the mood they are trying to achieve. Â“How do you want it to feel? Do you want calm seas, a dory just sitting idly in the water? Or do you like the challenge of the ocean, the confrontation with the seaÂ—sailing ships crashing through the waters?Â”
Craig cites the work of Cape Cod artist Anne Packard, which is sedate, abstract, and calming, and of Don Demers, who can paint various moodsÂ—from rolling seas to calm watersÂ—with equal flair. For contrast, thereÂ’s artist Michael Kane, who focuses more on energized sea themes, like the AmericaÂ’s Cup races out of Newport, Rhode Island.
Â“You can also integrate prints (as opposed to just paintings) into the theme, and there are some classics,Â” Craig says. Â“Painter John Stobart is known for his scenes of New York Harbor at night; his lighting is beautiful and you can keep looking at those because of the level of detail.Â”
Once the roomÂ’s mood is established, Craig looks next to choosing artwork for the largest wall in the room. Â“That gives us the anchor and all other art in the room plays off of that. We wouldnÂ’t, for example, have a calm scene in the same room as a battle at sea.Â”
One idea shared by gallery owners and directors on both coasts is that there are really no rules when it comes to buying art. Â“ Â…It should start from buying work you love and having a collection with a theme will hold a bit more cache,Â” says King. Â“But donÂ’t be afraid to have an overall eclectic mix if that is what makes your heart sing.Â” For a collection, she believes, Â“ItÂ’s not just about turning a corner and seeing a beautiful sailboat with a red buoy,Â” she adds. Â“ItÂ’s about finding a variety of mediums and compositions that express or tie into a harmonious theme.Â” The oceanside in North Carolina is quite different than that in Carmel, California. You might, King notes, like the diversity of different geographic areas to come into your home, or you might prefer to focus on your own geographic area.
Working with a gallery professional can help you find what is right for you and can inspire you to introduce a variety of mediums, all to make the mix and views in your home that much more interesting and pleasing. Adding a beautiful abstract sculpture or two to the collection can complement the hung art; Â“Â…something with movement that suggests the wind or the sea could be a wonderful addition to a collection,Â” King says. She points to the work of sculptors ML Snowden and Richard Erdman, whose abstract works in bronze and stone often suggest the forces of nature.
King reminds collectors that integrating a variety of mediums, imagery, and periods expands a collectionÂ’s interest. With a diverse collection that, for example, includes a playful Calder print depicting brightly colored shapes, an abstract seascape by Luc Leestemaker, and a rare, turn-of-the-century poster of an oceanliner heading to New York, you will not only have fun in the collecting, but make your home more interesting, she adds.