Summer was a frequent motif in many paintings throughout history. Starting in the Roman times, it was especially popular to show some of the allegories of different seasons in Renaissance and Baroque art. To celebrate the start of Summer here at the Culture Tourist, we curated some of the most beautiful paintings with a Summer theme in Art History for you. Enjoy!
10 Paintings best-representing Summer in Art History
Summer in art is symbolising life. Many paintings, especially made by Impressionists, are just bursting with energy. Here is a selection of the ten most fascinating paintings with a theme of Summer in Art History.
1/ Berthe Morisot: Summer’s Day
Where is this painting? National Portrait Gallery, London
Berthe Morisot is one of the most interesting, and rare, female Impressionist painters. On this oil on canvas painted in 1879, she used shades of green and blue, with some lighter highlights to depict the sunny day. The dark blue colour she’s using on one of the woman’s coats was quite unusual for Impressionist paintings.
With the clothes they are wearing, lovely dresses and hats, this painting brings a bit of a Belle Époque and the way Summer days were spent in the late 19th century.
2/ Georges Seurat: Bathers at Asnières
Where is this painting? The National Gallery, London
Georges Seurat painted Bathers at Asnières, one of his most famous paintings, in 1884 when he was only 24 years old. He offered it to the Salon in Paris, but they refused to exhibit it. He just finished the art academy shortly before, so he’s still using the academic way of making many sketches in preparation for this work.
Seurat started to experiment with Pointillism on this painting. And it is those little brushstrokes of complementary colours placed next to each other that are giving this painting such a vibrant feel. Definitely making it one of the most fascinating paintings representing the summer in art history.
3/ Georges Seurat: A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
Where is this painting? Art Institute of Chicago
This painting is sort of a successor of a previous artwork made by the same painter. Georges Seurat needed around two years (1884 – 1886) to finish this painting and create one of the most famous works of Pointillism. He depicted Parisians relaxing and enjoying a Summer day on a bank of the River Seine in Paris.
He would spend days making numerous sketches and drawings, trying to capture both the landscape and human figures perfectly. It’s one of his first more significant works on which he tested the new technique of Pointillism where he would apply dots of different colours next to each other, making optical illusions that way.
4/ Pierre-Auguste Renoir: Luncheon of the Boating Party
Where is this painting? The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.
In this painting, Renoir has painted a group of his friends enjoying a sunny summer day at the Maison Fournaise restaurant at the Seine River in Chatou. A lady in the front on the left is his future wife, Aline Charigot. A person sitting across from her at the front right is painter Gustave Caillebotte. Most of the other characters are his contemporaries, people from the cultural and intellectual circles of Paris.
The painting is considered today as one of the best Impressionist paintings. However, with the fantastic way he captured the sunny afternoon in it, it’s absolutely one of the best examples of Summer paintings in Art History.
5/ Claude Monet: The Cliff Walk at Pourville
Where is this painting? Art Institute of Chicago
This 1882 Impressionist painting by Claude Monet represents Summer in Art History perfectly. He’s capturing the bright light by using soft brushstrokes and shades of light blue, ocher, green and purple.
In one of his letters to his wife Alice, he said:
How beautiful the countryside is becoming, and what joy it would be for me to show you all its delightful nooks and crannies!
With his interest in light and colours, it seems as the theme of different seasons makes a great challenge to Monet. He made numerous Winter and Summer paintings, and his focus is always on specific light characteristics for that time of the year.
6/ Giuseppe Arcimboldo: Summer (The Four Seasons)
Where is this painting? Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
The Four Seasons is a set of four paintings created by Italian Renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo. In each one of them, he depicted another season by using fruits, flowers, vegetables and other plants characteristic for that time of the year.
In this one, he painted the Summer. Created in 1563, Arcimboldo represented it as a woman consisting of different kinds of fruits and vegetables. Her nose is made of cucumber, ear of eggplant, the upper lip of cherries, while her dress is made of straw.
7/ David Hockney: A Bigger Splash
Where is this painting? Tate Britain, London
Created almost five hundred years later, Hockney’s ‘A Bigger Splash’ is the youngest Summer in Art History painting we picked for this post. Painted in 1967, it’s one of the famous Pop Art paintings.
David Hockney has painted a large swimming pool next to the modern house. The main focus of the artwork is on a splash made by someone who just jumped to the pool.
8/ Paul Gauguin: Tahitian Landscape
Where is this painting? Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA)
Painter Paul Gauguin is famous for developing a post-Impressionist style called Fovism. He would place complementary colours next to each other in his paintings, thus producing a strong expressive feel on them.
In his search for more exotic colours and motives, he spent some time on Tahiti. This is where this painting was created, too. With the contrast of light blue sky and warm shades of orange and red on the landscape, he’s capturing the Summer in this painting in a fantastic way.
9/ Pierre-Auguste Renoir: The Swing
Where is this painting? Musée d’Orsay, Paris
When thinking of Summer in Art History and its representations on paintings, one of the first things coming to mind is the beautiful sunshine depicted on them. Renoir’s ‘The Swing’ is definitely a masterpiece of that theme.
He painted a young lady on a swing, accompanied by two men and a little girl. They are standing under the tree through which, between the branches and leaves, the sunshine is coming through. There are patches of different light reflecting on their clothes or the ground behind them. That texture of stronger and smoother light intensity makes this painting a masterpiece of Summer in Art History.
10/ Vincent van Gogh: The Harvest
Where is this painting? Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Vincent van Gogh often tried to capture the colours of different seasons in his paintings. So, when he finished this one, he was quite happy with how he presented the colours of Summer in it. From the light turquoise sky to the rich colour of ocher in the wheat field, he painted summer here so well. You can almost smell it through the painting.
Summer in Art History was a theme many artists tried out during their careers. From the Summer colours, vivid light to leisure time, they were all a great challenge for artists. But, they left us with some of the loveliest paintings ever made.
*Image source: Wikipedia