John Constable

A Windmill near Brighton


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John Constable 1776–1837
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 203 × 251 mm
frame: 400 × 500 × 80 mm
Bequeathed by George Salting 1910

Display caption

Most of the oil sketches and drawings Constable produced during his visits to Brighton were made on the beach. From here he portrayed the sea and storm-filled skies, colliers and other boats, and also the chain pier and the buildings of the still developing summer resort. Constable also painted on the downs above Brighton, sometimes employing a windmill as his focal point. This work was painted on 27 July 1824 on one of Constable’s first visits to Brighton. It was inscribed on the back with the date and a brief note of the weather: ‘very fine morning after rain.’

Gallery label, May 2007

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Catalogue entry

N02657 A Windmill near Brighton 1824

Oil on canvas, 7 3/8×9 15/16 (20.2×25.1).
The original stretcher, now replaced, was inscribed in pencil by the artist ‘Brighton. July 27th 1824’ top left, 'Brighton July 27th 1824' top right, and 'very fine morning after rain [...]' bottom right (transcribed before relining 1962; an infra-red photograph of the inscription was also taken). A more recent inscription, on a label, read: ‘Cornfields nr Brighton a very fine morning by J. Constable R.A.’.
Prov: Isabel Constable, according to an old label on the frame; possibly the ‘Mill behind a hill’ which she bequeathed to her nephew Clifford Constable1 and possibly in his sale, Christie's 23 June 1894(46, ‘A View near Brighton, with cornfield and windmill’), bt. Frickenham £52. 10s.; ...; James Staats Forbes, who died 1904; bt. from his executors by Agnew's March 1905 and sold May 1905 to George Salting, by whom bequeathed to the National Gallery 1910; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1954. Accession N02657.
Exh: Agnew's 1910(89).
Lit: Holmes 1910, p.85; Shirley 1937, p.206; Davies 1946, p.37; Chamot 1956, p.262; Beckett 1961, Paintings: Sussex (14) No.47; Hoozee 1979, No.416.

Constable first visited Brighton in May 1824 when he took Maria there for the sake of her health. She remained until November and also spent August 1825–January 1826 there. Constable paid her frequent visits. In addition he went to Brighton for a few days in September 1826 and paid three visits when Maria returned there in 1828. A visit in 1830 is also recorded. Many drawings and oil sketches were made on these excursions, especially on the early ones, and one large canvas of a Brighton subject was produced (No.32 below).

Nos 27 and 28 were painted during a visit to Maria which began on 17 July and lasted until October 1824. Other oil studies of windmills made during this period include V.&A., R.268 (3 August) and perhaps R.269 and 272 (H.417, 421, 427).

No.27 was copied in 1843 by Constable's son Alfred. Isabel Constable wrote to her youngest brother, Lionel, on 18 August that year: ‘As you wanted to know what picture Alfa painted for Mr Clayton I have made you a rough sketch of it I daresay you recollect it, it is one of Papa's & was in the drawing room’.2 Isabel's accompanying pen sketch clearly depicts No.27. Mr Clayton was a family friend, probably F.S.Clayton, the solicitor whom Isabel later appointed her Executor. Alfred's copy of the picture has not been found.

1. A copy of Isabel's will is in the collection of Mrs E. Constable.

2. Unpublished letter, Coll. Mrs E. Constable.

Published in:
Leslie Parris, The Tate Gallery Constable Collection, London 1981

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