Seaford--Sussex 1844

by William Collins RA


Seaford--Sussex was painted in 1843-1844 and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1844. It was purchased by John Sheepshanks for 170gns (£178.50). It is now on view in the Henry Cole wing of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

William Collins visited Seaford in September 1841, staying with unidentified friends. He was there from around 31 August to about 18 September. He took "charming, sunny seaside walks" (Memoirs II p198) and sketched for hours at a time. From these sketches he produced this oil. He records that he worked on it with three others "from the 2nd of November, until the 4th of April [1844]...During this period my health and strength have been no means good." (Memoirs II p254).
Wilkie Collins (his son) enthused about it. "It is perhaps as strikingly original a work of its class, as he ever produced. A vast tract of beach, visible from high sand hills in the foreground, sweeps circularly through the middle distance of the picture : over this, and the clear green sea beyond it, fall the soft fleeting shadows--painted with wonderful lightness, transparency, and Nature--of large clouds which are rolling through the sky above; and which are seen floating in sunny, delicate masses, over the light cliffs that bound the far horizon. Seated under the shelter of one of the high sand banks in the foreground, is a beautiful group of three children, brightly and powerfully painted, and represented engaged in making a boat. The effect of this picture, whether seen from a close or a distant position, is powerfully vivid and original. Its perfect aerial perspective, its tender clearness of atmosphere, its bright purity of tone, unite to give it that complete naturalness of aspect which at once delights the eye, and conceals from it the Art by which that delight is produced." Memoirs II pp252-253
Even in this idyllic scene with the children in the foreground, it is worth noting that there is a horse and cart working on the beach.

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