John Constable RA, Seascape Study: Boat and Stormy Sky

Seascape Study: Boat and Stormy Sky, 20 July 1828

John Constable RA (1776 - 1837)

RA Collection: Art

When sketching in Brighton, Constable would balance his paint-box on his knees and make open-air sketches on paper that he had placed into its lid. Passing storms challenged him to make dramatic studies at speed. In this work the boat's red mast adds a vivid highlight to the grey-blue of the rolling clouds and squally sea. The contrast of the vertical strokes of the brush and the swirling clouds add to the drama of this scene.

The poor health of Constable's wife was the reason that the family moved down to Brighton in spring 1824. Maria returned there 1825-26 and again in 1828 and Constable stayed there as much as his work permitted. This sketch is inscribed on the reverse with the date Sunday 20 July 1828.

Brighton was preferred residence of King George IV. Constable wrote to John Fisher in 1824 complaining that ‘Brighton is the receptacle of the fashion and offscouring of London. The magnificence of the sea, and its (to use your own beautiful expression) everlasting voice is drowned in the din & lost in the tumult of stage coaches – gigs – ‘flys’ etc – and the beach is only piccadilly …. By the sea-side … in short there is nothing here for the painter but the breakers - & the sky – which have been lovely indeed and always [various].’ (Beckett VI, p.171).

Constable drew many oil sketches looking from the beach towards the elegant Chain Pier and looking west towards Worthing. Sent some of these sketches to Fisher early 1825 and he explained that ‘they were done in the lid of my box on my knees as usual’(Beckett IV, p.189).

Further Reading

Graham Reynolds, The Later Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, 1984, Text Vol. p.147, no. 24.66; Plates Vol. pl. 538

R.B. Beckett, ed., John Constable's Correspondence IV, Patrons, Dealers and Fellow Artists Vol IV, Ipswich, Suffolk, 1966

R.B. Beckett, ed., John Constable's Correspondence VI, The Fishers Vol VI, Ipswich, Suffolk, 1968

Object details

Seascape Study: Boat and Stormy Sky
John Constable RA (1776 - 1837)
20 July 1828
Object type
Oil on paper laid on board

185 mm x 155 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Given by Isabel Constable 1888

Associated works of art

1 results

return to start

Start exploring the RA Collection

read more
  • Explore art works, paint-smeared palettes, scribbled letters and more...
  • Artists and architects have run the RA for 250 years.
    Our Collection is a record of them.
Start exploring