Explore John Constable's painting, 'Rainstorm over the Sea'

By Royal Academy of Arts

Rainstorm over the Sea (c.1824-28) by John ConstableRoyal Academy of Arts

This oil sketch is one of Constable’s most dramatic studies of sea and sky. It was made in Brighton on England’s south coast while he was visiting his ill wife, who was hoping to help her tuberculosis by escaping London’s smoky air.

Constable made many sea sketches in Brighton, sitting on the beach with a paint box balanced on his knees and a sheet of paper pinned to the lid. He was fascinated by the way light and weather conditions could transform a familiar place.

Here, he’s captured the fleeting moment when a shaft of sunlight suddenly breaks through the storm clouds.

The torrential downpour has been captured with just a few sweeps of paint.

You can see the marks of individual paintbrush bristles in the storm.

Constable wrote of Brighton in a letter to one of his patrons in 1824: "in short there is nothing here for the painter but the breakers – & the sky – which have been lovely indeed and always varying."

The surface of the sea has been given emphasis by a number of horizontal incisions – perhaps with the end of the brush.

White paint captures the surging waves.

In his sketches of landscapes and weather, Constable often included figures and boats as points of reference. Here there are just tiny, faraway shapes on the horizon, indistinguishable in the thundering storm.

Constable said that "The world is wide. No two days are alike, nor even two hours; neither were there ever two leaves of a tree alike since the creation of all the world; and the genuine productions of art, like those of nature, are all distinct from each other. … In a sketch, there is nothing but the one state of mind – that which you were in at the time."

The Leaping Horse (1825) by John ConstableRoyal Academy of Arts

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