Lighthouse Painting

Written by Sarah Provost
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Lighthouse paintings are so popular that they can be considered a genre unto themselves, ranging in style from photorealist through representational to expressionist. Even though lighthouse paintings are a favorite subject of amateur painters, and can be seen in every seaside town, people never seem to tire of them. What is the foundation of their widespread appeal?

For one thing, a lighthouse painting incorporates several beloved scenic motifs. Though it is certainly possible that the lighthouse itself might take up the whole frame, almost all paintings of this type incorporate both seascapes and skyscapes. This makes them excellent decorative paintings, because well-executed expanses of water and sky open up a room and bring energy and motion to it.

Emotional Elements Are Inherent in Lighthouse Paintings

For some viewers, the appeal is as simple as the fact that a lighthouse painting reminds them of a vacation, a summer home, or another pleasant memory. But there are other emotional responses inherent to the motif. A lighthouse is a symbol of hope and protection, of rescue when darkness and the elements of nature combine to put us in danger. Perhaps these paintings have such wide appeal because, on some deep level, they make us feel safe.

A lighthouse also suggests independence and autonomy. They are usually situated out on a rocky spur of coastline, and "the lighthouse keeper" is the essence of solitary self-sufficiency. For both decorative and emotional reasons, it seems clear that lighthouses will continue to be one of the most popular of all subjects, whether rendered by Winslow Homer or your next-door neighbor.

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