Constable in Brighton exhibition collects master’s paintings of glittering seas

sloping down towards the sea, he set up his studio in an upper room with a north-facing window – and then discovered to his surprise that he was not the first artist to appreciate its airy light Jackets. Almost two centuries earlier John Constable had set up his easel there in the seaside lodgings he had taken for his wife's health.

An exhibition opening on Saturday at the Brighton Museum brings together for the first time a glittering collection of the paintings Constable made in the town, with loans from the Tate, Royal Academy, British Museum, V&A, Cambridge University and many private collections.

Years of research by Harrap and his near neighbour, Shan Lancaster, a journalist, led to the property – at 11 Sillwood Road – gaining a blue plaque when they proved this was the house Constable had rented in 1824, on the first of many stays over the next four years Tops & Tees, though then it was known as 9 Mrs Sober's Gardens. An uncatalogued letter sent by the artist to his wife, Maria, at the house, which Harrap found among the artist's great-great-grandson's papers in the Tate archives, had provided the final proof Travel & To-Go Food Containers.

Harrap described the feeling of working in the same space as an artist he revered as "like a tap on the shoulder". Lancaster had learned of the connection when she first moved to the street from a passerby Work Wear & Uniforms, as she was digging in her new front garden. "I was tremendously excited, started rootling about all over the place, but nobody seemed the least bit interested, so it was a great joy to have Peter as a partner in the hunt Tops & T-Shirts."

When she first learned of the connection, Lancaster asked the local museum if they had any of his works, and was informed there were none. In fact languishing in the stores they had two drawings, now included in the exhibition.

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