Frederick Judd Waugh 1861-1940

The Ocean

  • 39 1/2 x 49 1/2 inches (100.3 x 125.7 cm)
  • Oil on canvas
  • Signed lower right: Waugh

Why We Love It

Waugh is known for his majestic seascapes, especially those such The Ocean, which depict the powerful movement of the sea as the waves crash violently into one another. Endeavoring to capture the feel of the ocean as faithfully as possible, Waugh once wrote of this struggle: “It is impossible to paint the sea in literal movement or to carry to the nostrils the tang of the salt sea brine, yet all these are somehow felt in a work of art. Being able to present such feeling is where the artist should excel.”

The Value

This painting by Waugh is particularly excellent in the power of the subject and technical execution.  It embodies everything one would want in a painting by the artist: drama, beauty, and force.  The excellent condition and large size of this painting make a wonderful addition to any collection.

Artist Background

1861: Born in Bordentown, New Jersey; 1880-83: Studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under Thomas Eakins; 1883-85: Studied at the Academic Julian in Paris; 1885: Returned to Philadelphia and painted portraits and landscapes, while also doing commercial work for the firm of Dakin and Petrie; 1892: Married Clara Eugenie Bunn and embarked on a fifteen-year sojourn in Europe; 1907: Returned to the United States; 1911: Elected to the NAD; 1929: Won the Palmer Memorial Marine Prize at the NAD; 1940: Died in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

The Ocean by Frederick Judd Waugh wonderfully exhibits the artist’s passionate exploration of the sea. His great ability to capture the movement of the waves and the generalized sensation and atmosphere of the ocean established Waugh as one of America’s fine marine painters.

The expressive and realistic effects of The Ocean were the result of Waugh’s exhaustive study of light, shadow, and motion. He wrote, “one should not conflict actualities in nature with artistic representation…. It is impossible to paint the sea in literal movement or to carry to the nostrils the tang of the salt sea brine, yet all these are somehow felt in a work of art. Being able to present such feeling is where the artist should excel.” Indeed, The Ocean shows an assured virtuosity in paint application, rendering, and composition.

Born in 1861 in Bordentown, New Jersey, Frederick Judd Waugh was raised by an artistic family. His father, Samuel Bell Waugh, was a successful portrait and landscape painter. His mother, Eliza Young Waugh, was a miniaturist. From 1880 to 1883, Waugh studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under Thomas Eakins and Thomas Anshutz. He then went abroad and studied with Adolphe William Bougereau and Tony Robert-Fluery at the Académie Julien in Paris.

Waugh’s early work consisted of figurative compositions that were conventional and decorative in style. He first began painting the sea while in England, and it soon became his primary subject. Waugh remained in Europe until 1907, when he returned to the United States and settled in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He exhibited extensively in the Paris Salons prior to exhibiting throughout the United States. He frequently outlined his point of view and working methods in several essays and manuscripts: “[the sea] is a pliable element and the wind and rocks and sands heave it up and twist it and turn it, pretty much the same way every time, until the observer learns to know the repeated forms he sees, and becomes at last so familiar with them that they can be painted from memory … I spend part of each summer studying the sea … and what I learn from it then, lasts me until the next time.”