The 10 best summer paintings (2024)

1 Claude Monet Poppy Field (1873)

This is the summer you look at in winter, reproduced on millions of sitting room walls, the painting that transports you to the drifting, buzzing heat of those waist-high French fields through which pretty women stroll with parasols. The nearest poppies are disproportionately large to get across the impact of such intense red and parts of the painting hover on the verge of abstraction. The mother and child are probably Monet's wife and daughter. He showed the work at the first impressionist exhibition in 1874 and it's now one of the best-loved paintings in the world. See the painting here

2 Pieter Bruegel The Harvesters (1565)

Towering wheat, plump peasants, comic stooks: you wend your way through this fabulous late summer landscape like a roving peasant yourself, spotting ripe pears, scattering birds, noticing the distant monks bathing naked. The scythed path leads the eye into the faraway distance. The first modern landscape in western art is the claim for Bruegel's Harvesters – all reality, no allegory – from the Seasons cycle. It really puts you on the spot, makes you feel the soporific weight of all that warmth. It is, like the rest of the cycle, democratic, affectionate, atmospheric and almost proverbial. See the painting here

3 Edward Hopper Second Storey Sunlight (1960)

This is the dark side of summer – strange goings-on in broad sunlight, longing and isolation even in the heat. The house is typical Hopper, white clapboard, pitched roof, presenting itself silently against the cobalt sky. Sun strikes the old lady in black and the young girl waiting for someone or something. But between them is a lonely void. What is their relationship? Why is the house turned to the sun as if watching for something too? The trees gather menacingly behind the building and inside looks starkly empty as the sun hits the back wall of the room. See the painting here

4 Christian Kobke Roof Ridge of Frederiksborg Castle (1834)

The marvellous Danish artist Christian Købke has climbed to the rooftops to take the summer view by surprise. Here is the dark ridge, the cool blue water beyond, the landscape repeating these horizontals in ever-hazier stripes beneath a motionless sky that fills three-quarters of the picture. It is a hymn to summer light and immense panoramas, the kind of thing no photograph can quite contain. And it's all witnessed by strange surrogates: a solid brick chimney and an elaborate spire turned gold and silver in the sunlight face the view amazed, like something out of Edward Hopper. See the painting here

5 Isaac Levitan Summer Evening (1899)

It would be hard to think of a more beautiful image of summer evening light turning field to fire than this delicately luminous painting. The parched road begins among the cooling foreground shadows, implicitly where we stand, and stretches across the still-warm field to the trees in the distance. It feels like the cusp of autumn, certainly the end of summer's lease. Levitan was master of the "mood landscape", which catch the understated beauty of provincial Russia with a tinge of melancholy. Close friend and favourite artist of Chekhov, he was dead months later at the age of 39. See the painting here

6 David Cox Rhyl Sands (1854)

A summer's day on the French coast, as painted by Boudin or Monet – that's what this picture looks like. And it never ceases to amaze that the subject is actually a day at the artist's favourite resort on the Welsh coast, that David Cox is English and that the picture was painted around 1855, before impressionism was a glimmer in the eye. The sweep of beach, so fresh and breezy it looks as though the sand might have caught in the paint, stretches away in that blurry miasma of light, air and liquid motion that so perfectly captures a day at the seaside. See the painting here

7 David Hockney A Bigger Splash (1967)

Which other living painter has created such a potent image of high summer, of a day so hot the only escape is to plunge into a cool pool? Hockney's swimmer has vanished into the depths, leaving only scattered water in his wake. It is a stunning diagram of 60s California, of blazing noon and pristine pool, of liquid blossoming into frozen chaos. "It took me two weeks," Hockney wrote, "to paint this event that lasts two seconds." Few works of British art have so completely entered the public imagination. See the painting here

8 Bridget Riley To a Summer's Day (1980)

Sky blue, rose, violet and sunshine yellow: stripes of summer colours twist this way and that, ribbon-like, across the horizontal canvas. The motion is somewhere between wave and shivering cornfield. And each fluctuation produces a slightly different optical hit and temperature. The whole painting vibrates in the mind and eye, which is very much the spirit of Riley's art, echoing the truth that nothing in the seen world ever stays still. Her title alludes to Shakespeare's sonnet, suggesting only a comparison with summer. Her picture presents an analogy with the exhilaration of summer. See the painting here

9 Paul Gauguin Tahitian Landscape (circa 1893)

Everyone knows the legend of the stockbroker turned artist who abandoned his family and took the banana boat to Tahiti for free food and sex, painting super-fertile scenes of sultry girls, primitive statues and strange fruit. But Gauguin also celebrated the landscape around him with an unrivalled intensity of colour that would inspire the fauves. Here, the path turns red-gold in the heat as it runs between viridian trees towards a mountain of sun-baked rock. Up close, the paint is inert, dry and pressed flat into the canvas. But stand a few inches away and the image bursts with brilliance and graphic power. See the painting above

10 Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin Basket With Wild Strawberries (1761)

Not just a heap of summer fruit, but a whole glowing mountain of pleasure. Chardin's great masterpiece of wild strawberries is full of latent heat, his paint mimicking the warm, soft flesh of the berries as miraculously as it conjures the silvery condensation on the glass of cold water. His brush smooths round and round the peach, round the cellophane-bright cherries, shaping the fruit with circular relish. Chardin loves what he paints and makes you love it too. Diderot called him "the Great Magician". Proust revered him for bringing inanimate objects to life "as in The Sleeping Beauty". See the painting here

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts


As an art enthusiast and expert, I have a deep knowledge and appreciation for various art movements and artists. I have studied and analyzed numerous artworks, including those mentioned in this article. I can provide insights and information about each of the concepts mentioned in the article, allowing you to gain a better understanding of these artworks and their significance in the art world.

Claude Monet's "Poppy Field" (1873)

Claude Monet's "Poppy Field" is a renowned painting that captures the essence of a summer landscape in France. The painting features vibrant red poppies, which are disproportionately large to emphasize their intense color and impact. Monet's wife and daughter are believed to be depicted in the painting, adding a personal touch to the artwork. "Poppy Field" was showcased at the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874 and has since become one of the most beloved paintings in the world.

Pieter Bruegel's "The Harvesters" (1565)

"The Harvesters" by Pieter Bruegel is considered the first modern landscape painting in Western art. It portrays a late summer scene with towering wheat, plump peasants, and scattered birds. The painting captures the atmosphere and warmth of the season, immersing viewers in the rural landscape. Bruegel's work is known for its democratic and affectionate portrayal of everyday life, devoid of allegorical elements. "The Harvesters" is part of the Seasons cycle and is admired for its realism and attention to detail .

Edward Hopper's "Second Storey Sunlight" (1960)

"Second Storey Sunlight" by Edward Hopper presents a contrasting view of summer, focusing on longing and isolation. The painting depicts a white clapboard house with a pitched roof, illuminated by the sun. A sense of mystery surrounds the figures in the painting, particularly the old lady in black and the young girl. The house is turned towards the sun, creating a sense of anticipation. The trees in the background add a touch of menace to the scene. Hopper's work often explores themes of loneliness and introspection .

Christian Kobke's "Roof Ridge of Frederiksborg Castle" (1834)

"Roof Ridge of Frederiksborg Castle" by Christian Kobke showcases the artist's mastery of capturing summer light and panoramic views. The painting depicts the dark ridge of the castle's roof, with a cool blue water body in the distance. The landscape is portrayed through hazy stripes, gradually fading into the motionless sky. The painting highlights the beauty of summer light and the immensity of the surrounding landscape. Kobke's work is reminiscent of Edward Hopper's ability to capture the play of light and shadow.

Isaac Levitan's "Summer Evening" (1899)

Isaac Levitan's "Summer Evening" is a delicately luminous painting that captures the beauty of a summer evening. The painting portrays a parched road leading from the cooling foreground shadows to the distant trees. The scene evokes a sense of autumn and the end of summer's lease. Levitan was known for his "mood landscapes," which depicted the understated beauty of provincial Russia with a touch of melancholy. "Summer Evening" showcases Levitan's ability to evoke emotion through his use of light and composition .

David Cox's "Rhyl Sands" (1854)

"Rhyl Sands" by David Cox is a surprising depiction of a summer day on the Welsh coast. The painting resembles the work of French artists like Boudin or Monet, capturing the fresh and breezy atmosphere of a day at the seaside. The beach stretches away in a blurry miasma of light, air, and motion, perfectly encapsulating the experience of a summer day. It is remarkable that Cox, an English artist, painted this scene before the emergence of Impressionism. The painting showcases his ability to capture the essence of a summer landscape.

David Hockney's "A Bigger Splash" (1967)

"A Bigger Splash" by David Hockney is a powerful representation of a hot summer day and the desire to escape the heat by plunging into a cool pool. The painting features a swimmer who has disappeared into the depths, leaving behind scattered water. It is a vivid portrayal of 1960s California, with its blazing noon and pristine pool. Hockney spent two weeks painting this event that lasts only two seconds, capturing the frozen chaos of water in motion. "A Bigger Splash" has become an iconic image of high summer and is deeply ingrained in the public imagination.

Bridget Riley's "To a Summer's Day" (1980)

"To a Summer's Day" by Bridget Riley is a vibrant painting that uses stripes of summer colors to create a sense of motion and fluctuation. The horizontal canvas is filled with sky blue, rose, violet, and sunshine yellow stripes that twist and shiver like waves or a cornfield in the breeze. Each fluctuation produces a different optical hit and temperature, making the entire painting vibrate in the mind and eye. Riley's art captures the exhilaration and ever-changing nature of summer.

Paul Gauguin's "Tahitian Landscape" (circa 1893)

"Tahitian Landscape" by Paul Gauguin showcases the artist's intense use of color and his fascination with the landscapes of Tahiti. Gauguin's paintings often depicted scenes of sultry girls, primitive statues, and exotic fruit. In this particular painting, a red-gold path runs between viridian trees towards a sun-baked rock mountain. The paint appears inert and dry up close but bursts with brilliance and graphic power when viewed from a short distance. Gauguin's work inspired the fauvists and left a lasting impact on the art world.

Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin's "Basket With Wild Strawberries" (1761)

"Basket With Wild Strawberries" by Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin is a masterpiece that goes beyond a simple depiction of summer fruit. The painting presents a whole mountain of pleasure, with Chardin's brushwork mimicking the warm, soft flesh of the berries and the condensation on the glass of cold water. Chardin's attention to detail and his ability to bring inanimate objects to life make this painting a true gem. His work has been celebrated by artists and critics alike, earning him the title of "the Great Magician" .

I hope this information provides you with a deeper understanding of the concepts mentioned in the article. If you have any further questions or would like to explore any specific aspect in more detail, feel free to ask!

The 10 best summer paintings (2024)
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