Food, Days Out and Travel stories from Brighton, London and the Rest of the World


Is it by John Constable?

We see nothing truly until we understand it. John Constable

Saturday morning and unable to wait any longer I head to the Pavilion bright and early so that I can study the Regency costumes on display before crowds pour in. On route I walk down along St James’ Street and there staring back at me from a shop window is a pencil sketch of a ship on Brighton beach looking every bit the antique and with a price tag of only forty quid.

Mind Charity Shop window, St James's Street
I walk on and go to the exhibition, first in, I marvel at the petite size of the costumes positioned in the rooms where two hundred years ago real people would have worn something similar in the very same space. With one eye trying to imagine the costumes walking and talking I still keep thinking about the picture in the window and wonder whether I should go back and have a look at it again in case it is still there.

Some time later and I am in the shop on St James’ Street and I am holding the picture up to try and scrutinize whether it is a copy or an original, I can’t tell and I’m standing in a charity shop so I can’t ask if I can take off the back to check. But forty quid is forty quid.

I dither, what if it's really old I think and then I buy it.

Walking home I’m not sure if I’ve been done up like a kipper or whether it’s ok to spend forty quid on a frame and print.

At home I loosen the fastenings on the back and ease out the picture, to find, it’s a copy. Oh what! I think. Oh well, I shrug. Now that my dreams of untold wealth have been dashed I carefully clean the glass and place the picture back in the frame.

The writing along the bottom of the sketch looks as if it might read, ‘Brighton 14 Oct 1825’, whether it’s a copy or not I still want to know who sketched it.

Brighton 14 Oct 1825

Some googling later reveals a picture that looks similar by John Constable, is my print by Constable I wonder?

courtesy of

Further research uncovers that it is likely that it was by Constable because he was in town on 14 October 1825 sketching an old church.

Whether it is or not, the view from my window is of the same coastline the artist of this sketch looked at and the seaside square I live in was laid out around the same time too, so it seems fitting for this picture to end up hanging above my mantelpiece one hundred and eighty five years later.

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