Brighton Beach with Colliers John Constable Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Brighton Beach with Colliers is an oil painting on paper produced by John Constable in 1824. The painting depicts a sunny scene looking out onto Brighton Beach with some coal brigs lining the shore. This work was originally intended as a birthday gift, having been sent to John Fisher, who was the godfather of his daughter Maria Louisa.

An inscription on the back, most likely by the artist, reads, "3d tide receeding left the beach wet - head of the Chain Pier Beach Brighton July Evg, 1824 my dear Maria's Birthday Your Goddaughter - Very lovely Evening - looking Eastward- Cliffs & light off a dark grey effect - background - very white and golden light". The work has been painted on a relatively small piece of paper, measuring 14.9cm x 24.8cm x 41.8cm. Related written material by John Fisher suggests that the artist found difficulty in finding landscape scenes to paint around Brighton. Thus, the artist turned to the sea and shorelines around Brighton for inspiration, which he found more accommodating.

Brighton Beach with Colliers represents what John Constable found to be among the more pleasing sights of his time in Brighton. The artist would visit Brighton several times in his life, but this painting is from one of his first trips to the area. At the time Brighton was a fashionable town and he had chosen to visit for the health of his wife, who was suffering from consumption. However, Constable was unimpressed with the area, calling it, "Piccadilly by the sea-side". He found the town of Brighton dirty and uninspiring, though he was quite taken with its large skies along the sea shore.

This painting showcases what John Constable found as some of the more agreeable sights of Brighton. Though known for his love of nature and landscapes, the addition of the coal brigs shows the inevitable encroachment of industrial progress. Constable intentionally avoided painting an overly-picturesque scene, finding them, "hackneyed" and instead choosing to portray what he found to be the pleasantness of a warm summer's day. Brighton Beach with Colliers was part of a batch of sketches that John Constable sent to John Fisher on his first of several trips to Brighton. Other paintings in the same batch include Brighton Beach (multiple paintings exist using this name) and A Windmill on the Downs near Brighton.