Chain Pier, Brighton by John Constable. 1826-27. Oil on canvas. Support: 1270 × 1829 mm; frame: 1613 × 2143 × 146 mm. Collection: Tate, purchased 1950. Ref. no. N05957. Kindly made available for reproduction on the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) licence. Downloaded by Jacqueline Banerjee.
According to the Tate's "Display Caption" of September 2004, given below the painting on the gallery's website, Constable "first went to Brighton in 1824, taking his wife Maria in an attempt to restore her failing health. He visited her there frequently in the mid-1820s and made many drawings and sketches, but this is his only large painting of a Brighton subject." As a painting of Brighton which includes the new chain pier, this gives much space to the the activities of people on the beach, mostly fishermen with nets (one, seated on the far left, has a dog near him) but also a couple of bystanders. The sail of a boat high on the sands is a more prominent feature than the distant ones at sea, which, however, are slanted by an energetic wind. The caption continues, "Here Constable shows the bustling life of the beach against a backdrop of Brighton’s new hotels, residential quarters and the Chain Pier itself." In contrast to this, J. W. M. Turner, painting the Chain Pier soon afterwards, focussed primarily on the pier, and that too specifically as a landing stage for packet steamers. Turner only gives the merest suggestion of the seafront and seafront activities. The pier was not part of the backdrop but a structure facilitating sea crossings, and the point of the painting.
Created 26 October 2020