In this paintingConstable depicted the activity on the beach at Osmington, a fishing hamlet on the south coast of England. He painted a lively sky using an expressive handling of paint. Constable made three versions of this subject: this one; one in a private collection; and an unfinished version now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Constable and Maria had spent part of their honeymoon with John Fisher and his wife at Osmington in October 1816. Their visit lasted about six weeks. Constable made numerous pencil drawings of the coastal and inland scenery in a sketchbook and painted some views of the area. He probably based this composition on one of those drawings, although no original study has yet been identified.
In his journal for 18 June 1824 Constable noted ‘After dinner Fisher called. I was at work & had been so all day – on the little Osmington Coast’ (Beckett II, p. 335).
The Parisian dealer, John Arrowsmith, had asked Constable to make several cabinet pictures for sale in Paris, including a view of Osmington Bay (probably the version in a private collection). Constable is likely to have made this version of the subject at around the same time.
In his biography of Constable, Andrew Shirley wrote of the area:
… the land leans from Osmington soberly to the sea, a homely, rounded outline of hills guarding the narrow heads of the valleys that open south-westwards and to the west … the brilliant rocks and foreshores of Osmington and Weymouth … hung in Constable’s imagination (Shirley 1949, pp. 102–03).