Art of the ocean: How artists have depicted the marine world

From Jason deCaires Taylor’s underwater statues, walking to oblivion, to Carl Chun’s detailed illustration of an octopus, a new book explores how our oceans have inspired art through the centuries


14 September 2022

Jason deCaires Taylor, Rubicon

Jason deCaires Taylor

A WOMAN is immortalised, gazing at her phone, part of an anonymous crowd of sculptures by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor. But this is no ordinary setting: deCaires Taylor’s pH-neutral marine cement figures (above) are 14 metres underwater off the coast of Lanzarote, Spain, and will eventually be reclaimed by the sea. The work’s name, Rubicon, draws from the idea the crowd, and the world, are heading towards a point of no return as temperatures rise.

The image of Rubicon is taken from a new book, Ocean: Exploring the marine world, which details how our oceans have been a “symbol of infinity, beauty, solitude, isolation, danger, happiness, weightlessness and longing” in art through the centuries. Featuring more than 300 images ranging from Roman mosaics to nautical cartography, Ocean also highlights how climate change has affected the seas.

NNtonio Rod, Trachyphyllia, from Coral Colors

NNtonio Rod

NNtonio Rod (Antonio Rodríguez Canto) took 25,000 photos over the course of a year to make the award-winning time-lapse film Coral Colors (2016), from which the striking still Trachyphyllia (see above), featured in the book, is taken. Rod wanted his film to raise awareness of corals as they become more vulnerable to climate change-related bleaching.

Biodiversity Heritage Library/Contributed by MBLWHOILibrary

Ocean also features marine biologist Carl Chun’s stunning illustration of an octopus (Muusoctopus, formerly Polypus levis), drawn from a specimen collected near the Kerguelen Islands in the south of the Indian Ocean during the 19th century. The illustration (above) is included in Die Cephalopoden, Chun’s seminal 1910 work on cephalopod molluscs.

Book publisher Phaidon Editions

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