- Museum number
Brighton Beach, Fishing boats by a breakwater; other boats out at sea, a road leading up a hill towards the town at left, in the foreground capstans and a smock on a pole
Brush drawing in grey wash, over graphite
- Production date
Height: 181 millimetres
Width: 325 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Constable took his wife and their four children to Brighton for the first time in May 1824. Always of a delicate constitution, and worn out by child bearing and the demands of a young family, Maria could no longer tolerate the heat of London, and was recommended to recuperate by the sea. Constable went with them to see them installed in their lodgings, but then returned to London; he visited the family for a week in June, then, after the end of the Academy exhibition in mid July, marking the end of the London 'season', he went down to Brighton, and stayed there until the middle of October; Maria and the children came back to London a couple of weeks later, on 2 November.
During the long stay in the early autumn, Constable made numerous drawings of shipping on the beach in a large sketchbook, with a page size of approximately 7 x 10" (180 x 255mm). The earliest is dated 1 September, the last, 18 October (R24.26, R24.33). The book was of Whatman paper, watermarked 1821, and had first been used the year before, during a visit to Coleorton in Leicestershire, the seat of Sir George Beaumont (R23.31-33). On 17 December 1824, Constable wrote to his friend Archdeacon John Fisher that the book contained about thirty drawings of the beach. "The book is larger than my others - and does not contain odds, and ends (I wish it did), but all complete compositions - all of boats, or beach scenes"(JCC VI, p. 186). 1948-10-9-10 appears to come from this sketch-book, with an additional piece added at the right hand side, extending the width by a further 50mm. The notion of using the sketchbook in this unusual way may have been suggested by the drawings he made in 1821, while on his tour of Berkshire, where again a larger than usual sketchbook contains a series of carefully finished drawings (see, for example, 1882-2-15-62); it shows Constable, as so often, extending the technical boundaries of his art, setting himself new challenges in his observation of nature.
It is not known whether the series of twelve engravings was ever begun; certainly, they were never finished. A number of line drawings, which may have been the copies Constable was working on, are in existence (R24.45, R24.48); there are also some larger studies on rather rough paper, which do not have the character of studies from Nature, and may also have been drawn for the engraver (R.24.51, R24.53-55). As these remained in the family collection, it would appear that Constable never delivered the drawings. Later the following year, 1825, Constable quarrelled wiuth Arrowsmith, and although the affair was patched up, he never painted for him again, and the connection between the two was broken off. There were rumours that Arrowsmith's financial affairs were crumbling, one point at issue being an unpaid bill to Reynolds, the engraver; this seems good enough reason for new projects not to have been undertaken (see JCC IV, pp. 204-6 and JCC II, p. 410).
I. Fleming-Williams, 'Constable landscape watercolours and drawings', 1976, pl. 34.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1976 Feb-May, Tate, 'Constable', no. 229
2017 Apr-Nov, Brighton, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, 'Constable in Brighton'
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number