Marine art or maritime art is any form of figurative art (that is, painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture) that portrays or draws its main inspiration from the sea. Maritime painting is a genre that depicts ships and the sea—a genre particularly strong from the 17th to 19th centuries. In practice the term often covers art showing shipping on rivers and estuaries, beach scenes and all art showing boats, without any rigid distinction - for practical reasons subjects that can be drawn or painted from dry land in fact feature strongly in the genre. Strictly speaking "maritime art" should always include some element of human seafaring, whereas "marine art" would also include pure seascapes with no human element, though this distinction may not be observed in practice.
Ships and boats have been included in art from almost the earliest times, but marine art only began to become a distinct genre, with specialized artists, towards the end of the Middle Ages, mostly in the form of the "ship portrait" a type of work that is still popular and concentrates on depicting a single vessel. As landscape art emerged during the Renaissance, what might be called the marine landscape became a more important element in works, but pure seascapes were rare until later.
Maritime art, especially marine painting - as a particular genre separate from landscape – really began with Dutch Golden Age painting in the 17th century. Marine painting was a major genre within Dutch Golden Age painting, reflecting the importance of overseas trade and naval power to the Dutch Republic, and saw the first career marine artists, who painted little else. In this, as in much else, specialist and traditional marine painting has largely continued Dutch conventions to the present day. With Romantic art, the sea and the coast was reclaimed from the specialists by many landscape painters, and works including no vessels became common for the first time.