Constable masterpiece returns to Brighton after 200 years

The labourers and fishermen of Brighton & Hove captured the imagination of Constable in the 1820s. Credit: Daniel Katz Gallery

A recently rediscovered artwork by renowned landscape painter John Constable has gone on public display for the first time in almost 200 years. 

The artist painted ‘Colliers Unloading’ while living on the Sussex coast with his family in the 1820s. 

The oil painting depicts workers unloading cargo from coal ships on Hove beach with the coastline of Shoreham visible in the distance. 

It lay in a private collection in France for decades before being rediscovered by art experts in 2017.

The painting has gone on public display at Brighton’s Royal Pavilion from today (15 July), on a three-year loan from the London art collector Danny Katz.

WATCH: Tom Davies, Director, Daniel Katz Gallery

It has been described as a significant addition to the body of John Constable's work.  Previously completely unknown to art experts, it belonged to the great French collector Camille Groult, who established the most significant collection of British art in France in the nineteenth century.

The composition is based on a series of drawings in pencil of shipping on the Brighton & Hove seafront. Constable is thought to have first visited Brighton in 1824, relocating his family to the seaside resort for his wife's health. 

The painting shows coal ships being unloaded onto Hove beach with workers and horses visible in the foreground.

Hedley Swain, chief executive of the Royal Pavilion & Museums Trust, said: "This wonderful unseen work of art will be displayed in the Royal Pavilion nearly 200 years after its creation and about 200 years after the completion of John Nash's Royal Pavilion - so it is particularly timely for us to unveil this beautiful and important painting, once again at home in Brighton.

"We are deeply grateful to Danny in his generosity in bringing this wonderful painting back for the people of Brighton & Hove and all our visitors to enjoy. Danny is a son of Brighton and I know how important it is to him to be supporting us and his home city."

WATCH: Nicola Coleby, Curator, Royal Pavilion

Danny Katz of Daniel Katz Gallery said: "The Romantic, vigorous and exciting canvas is something of a metaphor for the city of Brighton itself, and I'm very proud to be able to send the picture home for a period of time, where it can be enjoyed by visitors to the Royal Pavilion from elsewhere, but in particular by residents of the city.

"I felt compelled to acquire it when it appeared on the market, because it is an extraordinary painting, but also because it is a unique large-scale sketch that only exists in this 4ft format and the subject is my hometown of Brighton."

The painting will be on display to the public in the Royal Pavilion, Brighton on the ground floor and will be free for ticket holders. It is expected to remain in the city for at least three years.