Six shows inspired by the sea

  • 18 February 2015

How long is Britain's coastline? Ponder that brainteaser during a visit to one of these spectacular seaside exhibitions, spanning from Dorset's Jurassic Coast to the enchanted landscape of Land's End.

1. Then and Now: An Enchanted Landscape, Penlee House Gallery and Museum
Free with National Art Pass

Picturesque coastline, horse-drawn carriages, sprawling seafront hotels – West Penwith, also known as the Land's End Peninsula, was known to the Victorians as 'an enchanted landscape'. Inspired by John Blight's 1861 book A Week at the Land's End, this exhibition of photographs reveals a century of developments across the region, with images spanning from the 1860s to the 1950s. (until 21 March)

2. Jeremy Gardiner: The Jurassic Coast, Victoria Art Gallery
50% off with National Art Pass

Known as the Jurassic Coast, the 100-mile strip of coastline running from Exmouth to Swanage was England's first natural World Heritage Site. James Gardiner, a landscape artist local to the area, has been painting the coast for decades, creating works depicting the cliffs, beaches, landslides and caves scattered along the coastline. Gardiner's paintings, created using a painstaking technique inspired by geological time, are displayed alongside a map showing the locations depicted. (until 1 March)

3. Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea, Natural History Museum
50% off with National Art Pass

Coral reefs are often celebrated for their natural beauty, but they also provide a livelihood for more than half a billion people worldwide. Reefs provide terrific benefits to fishing, tourism, and protection from storms – despite only making up around 0.1% of the Earth's surface. Yet around a quarter of reefs are irreparably damaged, and many more are under serious threat. This illuminating exhibition celebrates coral reefs while exposing the impact of climate change, pollution and overfishing. (from 27 March)

4. John Virtue: The Sea, Towner
Free to all

The South Devon coast has featured prominently in the art of John Virtue since he dedicated himself to art in the early 1980s. Virtue trained at the Slade School of Art from 1965 to 1969 but spent the decade following his graduation working as a postman, before eventually forging a career painting the landscapes that surrounded him. His paintings of the sea exemplify his raw, free style, applying paint to the canvas surface using brushes, hands and rags. (until 12 April)

5. Stranded, National Maritime Museum Cornwall
Free with National Art Pass

Artist Jo Atherton scours the coastlines of Cornwall and Norfolk collecting the flotsam that washes up on the surface to create colourful tapestries. Expected items including fishing line and netting are worked in with fragments of children's toys, scraps of balloons and ribbons, giving significance to objects that have been orphaned, forgotten and ignored. Stranded brings together a collection of Atherton's tapestries for display. (until 5 July)

6. Chantal Joffe: Beside the Seaside, Jerwood Gallery
50% off with National Art Pass

Painter Chantal Joffe has spent more than a decade visiting the coastal town of Hastings with her family, sitting on the sea front and drawing. Her work is populated by female characters – in 2009, she stated that she loved painting women because 'their bodies, their clothes, all interest me' – and the paintings on show in Beside the Seaside focus on Joffe's paintings of her daughter and niece. The exhibition brings together works created over the last 13 years alongside new pieces produced especially for the show. (until 12 April)

Tags: What to seeExhibitionsGreat days out