Hastings: Boats making the Shore in a Breeze, John James Chalon[medium]1819, oil on canvas, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London [/medium]

Hastings: Boats making the Shore in a Breeze, John James Chalon 1819, oil on canvas, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Inishbofin Sound, Norman Ackroyd RA[medium]2005, etching, image courtesy of the artist[/medium]

Inishbofin Sound, Norman Ackroyd RA 2005, etching, image courtesy of the artist

An Mor Kernewek, Kurt Jackson RWA[medium]2003, mixed media and collage on linen, image courtesy of the artist[/medium]

An Mor Kernewek, Kurt Jackson RWA 2003, mixed media and collage on linen, image courtesy of the artist

Seascape Study: Boat and Stormy Sky, John Constable RA[medium]c.1824–8, oil on paper laid on board, © Royal Academy of Arts, London[/medium]

Seascape Study: Boat and Stormy Sky, John Constable RA c.1824–8, oil on paper laid on board, © Royal Academy of Arts, London

From the sublime spectacle of crashing waves to the vast and open expanse of the oceans, the sea has long fascinated artists in Britain. The Power of the Sea offers a multi-disciplinary approach to this fascinating subject, showcasing work by internationally-renowned contemporary artists alongside key historical works from national and regional art collections.

Many of the earliest artists in the exhibition - George Morland, Francis Danby, John Brett and Walter Langley - emphasized the Romanticism of the sea through images depicting the human costs of shipwrecks and their aftermath. Meanwhile JMW Turner and John Constable were captivated by its elemental nature – its fury and fluidity, breeze and light. By the late nineteenth century, the sea seemed more benign, a source of leisure and health: Henry Moore, David James, and Sydney Mortimer Laurence experimented with different ways to capture the movement of the waves. In the twentieth century Paul Nash, Edward Wadsworth and Paul Feiler found reassurance in the simple geometry of sea walls and boats, while Peter Lanyon, John Piper and Joan Eardley portrayed the coast as much more insubstantial, a place of swirling winds and shifting moods, reflecting personal experience.

In contemporary art, maritime environments have been both minimalist panoramas and places of familiarity and intimacy. Maggi Hambling, recognised for her celebrated series of North Sea Paintings, has depicted the power and energy of the sea in both paint and bronze. Gail Harvey creates colourful waves, while Kurt Jackson, Len Tabner and Janette Kerr depict seas that furiously foam and froth. The monochromatic photographs and etchings of James Beale, Norman Ackroyd and Thomas Joshua Cooper capture the moods, beauty and momentary movements of the ocean. History, memory, myth and maritime tradition inhabit the works of Hugh O'Donoghue and Will Maclean. Coastal erosion and rising sea levels are portrayed in work by Simon Read, Michael Porter and Jethro Brice, while Peter Matthews and Andrew Friend immerse work in the sea or create devices that deliberately disappear beneath its surface.

This significant exhibition demonstrates the contrasts and continuities in artists’ engagement with the sea over a period that spans more than two centuries. It encompasses a time of great change in man’s relationship with nature - and the understanding of that relationship – bringing us to the present day and the effects of climate change upon rising sea levels, which has only lent greater urgency to their work.

Making Waves 2014

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated book entitled The Power of the Sea: Making Waves in British Art 1790-2014, published by Sansom & Company, available from the RWA during the exhibition at a special price of £20 (RRP £25).

Exhibiting Contemporary Artists:

Norman Ackroyd RA • James Beale RWA• Jethro Brice • Annie Cattrell • Thomas Joshua Cooper RSA • Susan Derges • Andrew Friend • Maggi Hambling • Andrew Hardwick RWA • Gail Harvey • Sax Impey RWA • Kurt Jackson RWA • Janette Kerr PRWA • Rona Lee • Marian Leven RSA • Anne Lydiat • Will Maclean RSA • Peter Matthews • Joanna Millett • Hughie O'Donoghue RA • Michael Porter RWA • Simon Read • Terry Setch RWA • Len Tabner

Artist in Residence

From 15 – 19 April, artist Helen Jones will be working on-site as part of an Artist Residency in The Bristol Drawing School studio.

5 April – 6 July 2014

Admission prices

Adults: £5.00
(includes a 50p donation)

Concessions: £3.50
(includes a 40p donation)

Under 16s/SGS, Oxford Brookes, UoB & UWE students: FREE

Art Fund card holders: By donation - suggested minimum £2

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Sunday: 11am – 5pm

Last admission 30 minutes before closing.

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Visitor Reviews

Beautifully curated, the inspired choice of works makes this a great exhibition

A very inspiring and diverse mix of styles

Great exhibition - varied and stimulating the best yet

The best exhibtion I have visited for a long time - I will visit many times