Constable's Colliers unloading on Hove Beach

Colliers unloading on Hove Beach, looking towards Shoreham, Brighton by John Constable, was sold at Sotheby’s in December for £813,600 including premium.

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Katz, a former resident of the south coast city, bought the view of labourers and fishermen on Brighton & Hove’s beaches at Sotheby’s Old Master evening sale in December, where it overshot a £200,000-300,000 estimate and sold at £813,600 including premium.

The 2ft 8in x 3ft 8in (82cm x 1.12m) oil on canvas was something of rediscovery. It had been part of the collection of the great French collector Camille Groult (1832-1908), who established the most significant collection of British art in France in the 19th century. However, after descending through his family, it entered another more obscure French collection in the early 20th century.

The work remained unknown to scholars until 2017 when it was brought to London to be examined by Sarah Cove, founder of the Constable Research Project.

She confirmed it as a significant addition to the canon of Constable’s work.

The composition is based on a Constable drawing from 1834, one of a series of pencil studies of shipping on the beach that he made in Brighton in the summer and autumn of that year. The drawing is now held by the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

Constable painting

Curator at the Royal Pavilion Nicola Coleby, with Colliers unloading on Hove Beach, looking towards Shoreham, Brighton, the painting by John Constable that dealer Danny Katz has loaned to Brighton’s Royal Pavilion.

Titled Colliers unloading on Hove Beach, looking towards Shoreham, Brighton, the painting is now on public display for the first time after Katz agreed a long-term loan with the Royal Pavilion, the seaside pleasure palace built for George IV which is now a museum open to the public.

Katz 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.”

Danny Katz

Danny Katz, who started out in the antiques trade in Brighton.

The dealer, who now runs a gallery in London, specialises in sculpture but has also established a wide-ranging art collection. He started his career in 1968 while working in his father’s antiques shop in Brighton and has developed his business into one of the world’s leading dealerships.

The chief executive of the Royal Pavilion & Museums Trust, Hedley Swain, said: “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.”

Healthy choice

Constable first visited Brighton in 1824, relocating his family to the seaside resort for his wife’s health. With a good coach service between London and the resort, its location enabled the artist to continue working while his wife recuperated, visiting his family when his schedule allowed.

He would take a house at Brighton at various subsequent occasions until 1828, during one of the most commercially active periods of his career. Constable much preferred painting the scenes of working life along the shoreline rather than the bustling, fashionable Regency world of Brighton.