Here is an interesting link from a university. The subject is “Water in Art”.
In the Impressionist Period, artists spent hours painting water. As the light changed during the day, so did the reflections and colors in the water. Van Gogh spent hours, all day, with his canvas and brushes, painting and repainting the changing colors of the water at the seaside. During this period in art history, the Impressionists looked at painting water in a scientific way, as they worked at learning how to blend colors to illuminate the picture, as a reflective effect.
At that time, this was not the standard teaching in art schools. Art schools preferred to teach the same methods of the past to art students advocating great detail and realism as the only art style to learn. They looked at the Impressionist painters as the “hippies” of that period and didn’t take them seriously. Art schools looked at these “renagades” as going down an unsuccessful path.
What they didn’t realize, or consider important, was that some of these “rogue” artists were experimenting with light and color in a scientific as well as artful style. They used water as their subject observing the effects of light on color wanting to duplicate that on canvas. In this process they continued to learn about color and how one color effects another.
Even the subject of “water” can hold different meanings among artists. Water can be viewed scientifically or purely asthetic. Civilizations have always looked at water as “life-giving”. Water has always been a very useful subject matter in this way because it is always important for artists to be able to express their ideas. This allows people to see there is always a new way of looking at things. Water is a popular subject because it can be very interesting artistically, scientifically, and so important to life in general. We can view it as romantic, dramatic, serene, violent, inspiring, a form of transportation, living quarters, and life-giving.