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Dyce’s painting was the product of a trip he made in the autumn of 1858 to the popular holiday resort of Pegwell Bay near Ramsgate, on the east coast of Kent. It shows various members of his family gathering shells. The artist’s interest in geology is shown by his careful recording of the flint-encrusted strata and eroded faces of the chalk cliffs. The barely visible trail of Donati’s comet in the sky places the human activities in far broader dimensions of time and space.

May 2011