John Constable

The Sea near Brighton


Not on display

John Constable 1776–1837
Oil paint on paper on card
Support: 175 × 238 mm
frame: 356 × 422 × 76 mm
Bequeathed by George Salting 1910

Display caption

In new year 1826 Constable joined his family at Brighton and stayed for a fortnight. This bold study is one of only two paintings he made during this visit. It is also one of the very few oil sketches he executed outdoors in winter. On an earlier visit to Brighton in 1824, Constable had admired ‘the magnificence of the sea’ and he was attracted especially by ‘the breakers and the sky’. He later wrote how seabirds - some of which are included here - ‘add to the wildness and to the sentiment of melancholy always attendant on the ocean’.

Gallery label, May 2007

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Catalogue entry

N02656 The Sea near Brighton 1826

Oil on paper laid on card, 6 13/16×9 3/8 (17.3×23.8).
Inscribed by Charles Golding Constable on a label on the backing-board (presumably copied from the artist's inscription on the back of the paper): ‘Brighton. Sunday, Jany 1st 1826. From 12 till 2 P.M. Fresh breeze from S.S.W.’.
Prov: Charles Golding Constable, deceased, sold Christie's 23 June 1890 (80, ‘Brighton, Jan. 1st, 1826’), bt. Dowdeswell £58. 16s. (a Dowdeswell label is still on the backing-board); ...; George Salting by 1902 when recorded in Holmes 1902; bequeathed by Salting to the National Gallery 1910; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1961. Accession N02656.
Exh: lent with other works to the South Kensington Museum (now the V.&A.) by C.G. Constable's widow 1880–831 and to the Museum of Science and Art, Edinburgh 1883–86;2 Agnew's 1910(86); Tate Gallery 1976(244).
Lit: Holmes 1902, p.247, 1910, p.85; Shirley 1937, p.223; Davies 1946, p.37, 1959, pp.24–5; Beckett 1961, Paintings: Misc. II (2) No.2; Hoozee 1979, No.462.

Constable went to Brighton to be with his wife and family over New Year 1826. On 14 January 1826, a Saturday, he told Fisher that he had returned on Thursday, i.e. the 12th, having stayed a fortnight (JCC VI, p.212). His principal work during this visit was a painting of Gillingham Mill, Dorset, which had been commissioned by Mrs Hand and which was exhibited at the R.A. later that year (Yale Center for British Art, TG 1976 No.243, H.465). No.31 appears to be the only other painting made on this visit to Brighton and it must be one of the very few oil sketches Constable ever made outdoors in winter.

1. No.25 in the list of Mrs Constable's loans published in Loans to the South Kensington Museum 1877–1891, p.29: ‘Oil Painting; sea view off Brighton, a fresh breeze blowing ...Dated 1826’.

2. Loan 86, ‘Plain No.’ 25, in the Loan Register of what is now The Royal Scottish Museum. The description matches the South Kensington Museum one quoted in note 1, but the date is not given.

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


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