At the end of their stay in Brighton in 1828 Constable and his family encountered a spell of bad weather: ‘we have had most untoward weather’, Constable wrote to the print and book publisher, art collector and dealer, James Carpenter on 23 July (Beckett IV, p. 139).
In this small oil sketch, painted outdoors in front of the motif, Constable depicted the light and atmosphere of a stormy sea. The heavy bank of rain clouds and the dark shadow on the waves no doubt accurately show the stormy weather he experienced. His subject, and his expressive handling of paint, may also reflect Constable’s emotional state and his increasing concern over his wife Maria’s ill health. He had taken her to Brighton in the hope that her health might improve, but to no good effect. He told Carpenter that he had been ‘attending a very sick wife and afflicted child [Alfred]. Brighton has done them very little good’(ibid.).Maria died from pulmonary tuberculosis on 23 November 1828, four months after Constable painted this work. It was possibly the last he painted at Brighton.