DETAIL: John CONSTABLE,  Great Britain 1776 � 1837  'Harwich Lighthouse' c.1820 oil on canvas Tate, London, gift of Maria Louisa Constable, Isabel Constable and Lionel Bicknell Constable in 1888 Tate, London 2005
John CONSTABLE | Coast scene, Brighton

Great Britain 1776 – 1837
Coast scene, Brighton c.1824-28
oil on pasteboard
25.4 (h) x 42.2 (w) cm
Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Henry P. McIlhenny Collection in memory of Frances P. McIlhenny, 1986
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Constable here focused on the sky and the breakers on the shore. This is one of a group of works that Anna Constable, the widow of Constable’s son, Charles Golding, lent to the South Kensington Museum from April 1880 to October 1882. When the Museum was first considering displaying these studies, they sought advice from G.D. Leslie, the son of Constable’s friend and biographer, C.R. Leslie (who had died in 1859). G.D. Leslie replied to Sir Edward Poynter, the Director and Principal of the National Art Training School at South Kensington, that ‘there is no doubt at all that the pictures & sketches are all perfectly genuine & if  I recollect very fine … some of the marine watercolour sketches of coasts at Suffolk & Brighton with fishing boats are perhaps the finest things Constable ever did in my estimation & very little known to the public’ (G.D. Leslie to Sir Edward Poynter, [March 1880], Victoria and Albert Museum files) – indicating his admiration of the Brighton works.

When the collection was viewed by the French art critic Ernest Chesneau, he remarked that the works ‘give the impression of an energetic brain and impulsive execution … a poet whose nature is roused to ecstasy by stormy elements … it is life and movement which stir the depths of his soul’ (1882; E. Chesneau, The English School of Painting, London: Cassell, 1885, p. 142).

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