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Summer is ripe with inspiration for artists. Golden light. Bountiful fruit. Lush landscapes. Sparkling skies. Busy beaches.

Explore creations that call to mind the warmer months by artists likes Emma Amos, Pierre Bonnard, Mary Cassatt, Edward Hopper, Jasper Johns, Claude Monet, Pat Steir, and James Van Der Zee. Maybe they’ll remind you of summers spent by the pool—or convince you to brave the humidity and soak in the sun. 

At the Beach

Artists may have gone to the beach for the inspiration as much as the sea breeze. Painter Mary Cassatt and artist and poet Margaret Burroughs both captured little ones playing in the sand. Works by painters and printmakers Wilson Shieh and Harry Sternberg show swimmers among the waves.

Addison Scurlock took this sweet snapshot of a group at Maryland’s Highland Beach, the first Black-owned summer resort in America, in the 1930s. An earlier photograph from an unknown photographer at the turn of the 20th century shows crowds at New York City’s Coney Island Beach—a place where all classes of people came together during the summer.

Summer Treats

Artists agree that there’s nothing better than summer produce. Watermelons, raspberries, cherries, plums, and tomatoes appear in still lifes by 19th-century American painters John F. Francis and Lilly Martin Spencer, French post-impressionist Pierre Bonnard, and German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. Prints by American artists Helen West Heller and Emmy Lou Packard honor the workers who supply us with delicacies like a sweet ear of corn or a succulent crab claw. Dig in!

Summer Celebrations

Capped by Memorial Day and Labor Day, with Juneteenth and Independence Day in between, summer is filled with commemorations and celebrations. July 4 fireworks, parades, and history are the focus of works by artists from painter and printmaker Jeannette Maxfield Lewis to photographer Robert Frank and sculptor Claes Oldenburg. And credit is due to the unknown photographer who masterfully captured the magic of fireworks—a picture many of us have tried, but failed, to take.

Summer Scenes

Painter George Bellows and photographer Louis Draper captured the ingenuity of city kids looking for relief from the heat everywhere from New York City’s East River docks to a streaming fire hydrant. Claude Monet and Pat Steir focused on stunning stalks of sunflowers. Bathing beauties are the subject of this Boticelli-inspired photograph by Angela Strassheim and the patterned print by Emma Amos.

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June 29, 2023