Objects of beauty for marine artists are interesting muddy creeks, harbour scenes and old yachts

To the opening of the Royal Society of Marine Artists’ annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London, which runs until this weekend.

There are marine scenes here in a wide range of media: oils, acrylic, watercolours, pastels and even one or two textile paintings and wood engravings. The photo above is of one of the few modern yachts, by Peter Rileman and entitled ‘Round the first mark’.

The intricacy of much of the work is amazing. Many are harbour scenes, often at low water with the depiction of glistening mud in almost photographic accuracy. I assumed there would be lots of seascapes, but almost all were of boats and harbours. At the centre of nearly every painting was that most mesmerising of man-made objects, a boat.

The choice of which vessel was an interesting aspect. We can be a right snooty bunch here at YW and it’s instructive to see that although one or two were of the J Class racing in the Solent this summer, marine artists seemed generally more attracted to ordinary harbour scenes with perhaps a small motorboat or elderly Westerly taking centre stage.

If this exhibition is anything to go by, they have usurped the place of the wooden fishing boats of yesteryear.

I also found it interesting to see that there were quite a few paintings in which the sea seemed accurate but the wind definitely was not. Look carefully and you might see yachts taking parallel tracks sailing on different tacks. In one incredibly intricate oil painting, a motorboat being crossed by a yacht on port tack had flags flying in the opposite direction. An odd misunderstanding of the marine environment.

The sea is a hard pattern to capture, and many of the artists illustrate it beautifully: crystalline waves foaming over a seaweedy shoreline; the curling bow wave of a warship; wind-flattened seas in a storm. Catch this if you like paintings of boats, seas and harbours.

More details at www.mallgalleries.org.uk