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Weymouth Bay

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain, uk (painted)

  • Date:

    1816 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Constable, John RA, born 1776 - died 1837 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Isabel Constable

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Paintings, room 88, case NORTH WALL

Constable painted this sketch of Bowleaze Cove in Weymouth Bay during his honeymoon. It served as a study for a painting that was exhibited three years later. The figures on the beach may represent his hosts, the Reverend and Mrs Fisher, or the artist and his bride.

Physical description

Oil painting of a beach scene with figures.

Place of Origin

Great Britain, uk (painted)


1816 (painted)


Constable, John RA, born 1776 - died 1837 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions



Height: 20.3 cm estimate, Width: 24.7 cm estimate, Height: 41 cm frame, Width: 46 cm frame, Height: 45.2 cm Frame, Width: 50.3 cm Frame

Object history note

Given by Isabel Constable, 1888

Historical context note

In 1816 Constable exhibited 'The Wheatfield' and 'A Wood: Autumn' at the Royal Academy. His father died on 14 May. He spent some of the summer in Suffolk and paid two visits to Wivenhoe. He was married by his friend John Fisher to Miss Bicknell on 2 October at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, and they spent part of the honeymoon staying with Fisher at his vicarage at Osmington, Dorsetshire.

[G Reynolds, 1973, p. 110]

Descriptive line

Oil sketch of a Coastal landscape by John Constable, England, 1816

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Parris, Leslie and Ian Fleming-Williams, Constable London : The Tate Gallery, 1991. ISBN 1854370707 / 1854370715. 544 p. : ill. (some col.)
Exhibition catalogue
Morris, Edward, ed. Constable's Clouds: Paintings and Cloud Studies by John Constable , Edinburgh : National Galleries of Scotland ; Liverpool : National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, c2000. 176 p. : ill. (some col.). ISBN 1903278058 (paperback), 1903278066 (hardback).
Exhibition catalogue
Passion for Paint. A National Gallery Touring Exhibition in Partnership with Bristol's Museums, Galleries & Archives Service and Tyne & Wear Museums Exhibition pamphlet.
Exhibition catalogue
Catalogue of the Constable Collection, Graham Reynolds, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1973, pp. 110, 114, 115
The following is an extract from the text of the entry:

Differing opinions have been expressed about the order in which Constable’s three known versions of this subject may have been painted: the other two are at the National Gallery (No. 2652) and at the Louvre (No. 1808). Holmes (Burlington Magazine, Vol. XVII, 1910, p. 85) regards the picture in the National Gallery as the earliest, and as having been painted during Constable’s honeymoon. He identifies the Louvre picture as that exhibited at the British Institution in 1819, and dates No. 155 rather later than the National Gallery picture, suggesting that it is a sketch for the picture exhibited at the British Institution. He therefore date in c.1819 (see Holmes, p. 244). Davies (pp. 33 and 34) records the literature up to 1946, with reference to the National Gallery version. Beckett (Connoisseur, Vol. CXXIX, 1952, pp. 6-8) considers that No. 155 is the original version, accepts the Louvre picture as that shown at the British Institution, and suggests that No. N.G. 2652 may be later.
As far as the date of No. 155 is concerned, it is almost certainly the open-air sketch from nature made by Constable on his honeymoon. The other paintings would then be later versions based upon it. This view, which is supported by the similarity in size to other oil sketches made by Constable on his honeymoon (Beckett, loc. cit., p. 7), is virtually established by a point of detail. In the National Gallery’s picture and in the mezzotint of the subject by David Lucas a man is to be seen in the middle distance driving a flock of sheep, and perhaps representing distant water, mist or smoke. It is probable that this shows what Constable had in front of him when he made the sketch on the beach, and that the decision to change it into the shepherd with his sheep was an afterthought, suggested by the rough, indefinite forms in the sketch.
No. 155 [330-1888] has long been considered as the work from which Lucas engraved the mezzotint ‘Weymouth Bay, Dorsetshire’ (S. 13) (Inventory of Art Objects 1888 “Engraved with variations in English Landscape Scenery”; see also S.:L., p. 172). However, as Davies, p. 34, points out, the pedigree of the Louvre picture shows that it is the one from which Lucas made the mezzotint, and No. 155 only enters into the matter as the source from which the Louvre picture as well as the other versions were painted (see also Beckett, loc. cit., p. 7)
Timothy Wilcox, Constable and Salisbury. The Soul of Landscape London: Scala Publishers Ltd, 2011. ISBN: 978 1 85759 678 6.
Exhibition catalogue

Exhibition History

John Constable's Paintings of Salisbury and its environs (The King's House, Salisbury 20/05/2011-25/09/2011)
Passion for Paint (National Gallery (London) 20/07/2006-17/09/2006)
Passion for Paint (Laing Art Gallery 13/04/2006-09/07/2006)
Passion for Paint (Bristol's City Museum and Art Gallery 21/01/2006-02/04/2006)
Constable: a breath of fresh air (The Millennium Galleries, Sheffield 08/02/2003-27/04/2003)
John Constable, selected by Lucian Freud (Grand Palais 10/10/2002-13/01/2003)
Constable's Clouds: Paintings and Cloud Studies by John Constable (National Galleries of Scotland 11/08/2000-29/10/2000)
Constable's Clouds: Paintings and Cloud Studies by John Constable (Walker Art Gallery 28/04/2000-16/07/2000)
Constable (Tate Gallery 13/06/1991-15/09/1991)

Labels and date

"Label" created for Elise Load [Author unknown]:
After their marriage in 1816, John and Maria Constable spent most of their honeymoon at Osmington, near Weymouth, Dorset. The artist must have painted this on the spot, during a sudden spell of stormy weather. The immediacy of his reaction and expression is a quality we associate more with French Impressionism of some fifty years later, but it reminds us that Constable's work was much admired in France (another version of Weymouth Bay is today in the Louvre in Paris) and influenced two generations of French painters. Especially notable here are the figures, walking their dogs on the beach and battling their umbrellas against the wind, conjured from a few rapid strokes of his brush. It is also a fine example of Constable's thesis that 'it will be difficult to name a class of landscape in which the sky is not the key note, the standard of scale, and the chief organ of sentiment'.


Canvas; Oil paint


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Sea; Dog (animal); Beach; Weymouth



Collection code


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