As an island nation, Britain is dependent on ports and harbours to keep its economy afloat, with 95% of imports and exports moving through UK ports and harbours. Images of harbours feature strongly in this year’s Royal Society of Marine Artists Annual Exhibition, as they are an exciting point of reference often featuring a lot of activity, a variety of boats and reflections in the water. In the following blog post, we will highlight some of the pieces that focus on harbours.

David Allen’s pastel piece Woodbridge Harbour depicts the Tidemill Yacht Harbour in Woodbridge, Suffolk. With many things to see and do in Woodbridge, it is a popular tourist destination. David explains: ‘I am always drawn to this harbour when in Suffolk and on this occasion I was inspired by the two foreground boats and the fact that they led your eye towards the old mill and landscape beyond.’ David’s composition means your eye travels across the piece, from the boats to the mill, to the hazy green landscape in the background.

David Allen RSMA Woodbridge Harbour Pastel 56 x 69 cm £1,250

Shimmering Water, Mousehole is an oil painting by Peter Barker, depicting the harbour in Mousehole, a small village near Penzance in Cornwall that is a popular location for pilchard fishing. One local explanation of the derivation of Mousehole’s name is that it may come from the Cornish Moeshayle, meaning “at the mouth of the river of young women”, but some argue Mousehole is a reference to the original tiny harbour, or to a nearby sea cave, resembling a literal mouse hole. 

Peter explains: ‘I couldn't resist painting this - when water is gently moving, but the reflections are still very evident, it produces this beautiful shimmering look, and although it may look tricky to paint, it was wonderfully enjoyable and in fact, quite simple compared to describing that pesky jumble of houses!’

Peter Barker RSMA Shimmering Water, Mousehole Oil 51 x 69 cm £2,250

Robert Brindley’s oil painting Harbour Reflections, Whitby has the replica ship ‘The Grand Turk’ in the background, which was made famous by the television series Hornblower. The ship is moored alongside small fishing boats in Whitby harbour, in North Yorkshire. The harbour has pleasant views and walks, a variety of boats, amusement arcades and plenty of fish and chip shops, making it a popular tourist destination.

Robert Brindley RSMA Harbour Reflections, Whitby Oil 43 x 43 cm £850

Mark Buck’s watercolour painting Mallaig Harbour in the Rain, depicts the harbour in Mallaig, one of the leading ports on the West Coast of Scotland for prawn. Mark was drawn to the dancing reflections of the fishing boats in the water when he visited on a drizzly day. He took videos of the harbour, focusing on the disturbance of ripples in the water, and edited a video loop to work from when painting the piece in watercolours back in his studio. 

Mark Buck Mallaig Harbour in the Rain Watercolour 73 x 90 cm £1,200

Next to highlight is Madeleine Davenport’s Winter Evening, Pittenweem, an oil painting on canvas of Pittenweem Harbour, studying the winter evening light on the boats and buildings of the Scottish fishing port. There is a deep blue sky, reflected in the water, and a warm orange glow to the surrounding boats and buildings. Pittenweem is an active commercial fishing harbour, with a fish market every morning making it very popular with visitors.

Madeleine Davenport Winter Evening, Pittenweem Oil 74 x 89 cm £1,800

Matthew Phinn’s oil painting Kawajiri Harbour, Hiroshima depicts a typical fishing village on the Japanese Inland Sea near Hiroshima. Matthew visited Japan in the Autumn of 2019, where he made numerous preliminary sketches, that he then later worked from to create the final oil painting. The glowing light and reflections of the boats in the water create an extremely atmospheric piece.

Matthew Phinn RI Kawajiri Harbour, Hiroshima Oil 59 x 59 cm £1,200

Entrance to the Harbour, Cowes, Isle of Wight is an oil painting by John Stillman that overlooks the harbour. The composition gives an expansive view of the tops of the buildings, the boats in the sea, the cliff edge coated in greenery and the landscape in the distance along the horizon. Cowes harbour is an entry point for many ferries and ships and arguably the foremost centre for yacht racing not only in the UK but around the world, hosting an array of yacht races and regattas yearly.

John Stillman RSMA Entrance to the Harbour, Cowes, Isle of Wight Oil 65 x 80 cm £2,750

The last painting to highlight is Dave West’s oil painting Harbour Nocturne (Ardglass). Dave explains he painted this 'en plein air' at the harbour of Ardglass in County Down which is a coastal fishing village and an important fishing harbour in Northern Ireland. The dark sea and sky illuminated by the strong fluorescent lighting creates a striking image. 

Dave West Harbour Nocturne (Ardglass) Oil 30 x 35 cm £750

There are a multitude of harbours dotted along the coast of the UK and Ireland, and we hope this highlights some of them, perhaps inspiring you to visit somewhere new one day! You should also definitely take time to visit the Royal Society of Marine Artists Annual Exhibition, on at Mall Galleries from Thursday 30 September to Sunday 10 October 2021, and available to view and purchase pieces from online now.

Article written by Hannah Martin

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