A day at the beach: 200 years of seaside scenes

Whether the mercury is rising, or wind is whipping sand into your ice cream, we all love a trip to the seaside.

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A Day at the Beach by Hector Caffieri, offered at Bonhams on July 6 with an estimate of £600-800. View the catalogue entry here.

In Britain, beach vacations first started in the 1700s when the wealthy built their own seaside homes. Doctors prescribed coastal trips as a way to treat conditions from gout to hysteria, and it has remained a favourite pastime even for those in good health.

It would become a favourite pursuit of Jane Austen, who, in one of only two known pictures of her is depicted staring out to the ocean. A beach visit is central to the plot of her novel Persuasion.

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Straight out of an Austen novel, this early 19th century English school depiction of a girl on the beach is offered at Gardiner Houlgate’s auction of June 30 where it has an estimate of £80-120. View the catalogue entry here.

However, seaside holidays came into their own in the mid-19th century. Thanks to the railways and the Bank Holiday Act of the 1870s, more people than ever could enjoy an escape to the coast. Blackpool, Scarborough, Brighton and many other seaside towns became popular holiday resorts.

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A classic 19th century scene of beachgoers, though this 1878 composition by American artist Conrad Wise Chapman probably shows the beach at Trouville in France. It goes under the hammer at Lawrences of Crewkerne on July 6 where it is expected to make £4000-6000. View the catalogue entry here.

In the 20th century, the beach holiday had a heyday in the post-war years. Thanks to the Holiday Pay Act of 1938 and the relatively affordability of these domestic coastal towns, the British seaside holiday became an institution.

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A 1960s painted seaside advert for postcards. Available from Rowley’s on July 2, it measures nearly 2m high and has an estimate of £100-150. View the catalogue entry here.

Saucy seaside postcards became a standard part of beach holidays. The artist Donald McGill in particular became associated with this genre of postcard, which specialised in earthy observational humour.

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As part of its Affordable Art Auction on July 2, David Duggleby offers this acrylic Summer Day at the Beach by Gordon Barker with an estimate of £80-120. View the catalogue entry here.

Thanks to travel restrictions, economic constraints and a newfound appreciation for greener holidaymaking means there is renewed interest in the UK beach holiday.

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A more realistic scene of some beach holidays, this oil by Donald McIntyre is offered at Rogers Jones on July 16 where it has an estimate of £2500-3500. View the catalogue entry here.

Depictions of the seaside range from the sentimental to the austere and are as old as the holidays themselves.

Tags: Fine Art
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