This watercolour depicts Brighton from the sea, highlighting its transformation from a fishing town to a popular pleasure resort in the early 19th century.

It is the only picture Turner is known to have painted featuring the city's iconic Royal Pavilion. The newly constructed Chain Pier (1823) on the right appears as a delicate structure poised elegantly above the water bustling with people. In the centre of the painting floats the Royal Pavilion, the recently completed summer palace designed by John Nash for George IV, Prince of Wales. The axis of the Pavilion has been skewed to appear parallel with the seafront making the building dominate. St. Nicholas Church can be seen on the hill above the old town and Lamprell’s famous Baths are shown on the far left of the image. These buildings highlight new developments in technology and engineering and the importance of fashion and tourism. By placing the Pavilion in the centre of the image, Turner emphasises George IV’s contribution to the town’s prosperity. The work had been in private hands and unseen to the public for more than 100 years before being purchased at auction for Brighton with an Art Fund grant.


B.G. Windus, Tottenham, 1840; John Morley of Clapham, Christie’s London, May 1896 (265 gns to Vokins); Mrs Robinson of Sheffield; Thomas Smith, Manchester; Agnew’s Manchester; Mr Swales; by descent to Marjorie Swales; by descent to private collection.

The Royal Pavilion

Pavilion Gardens, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 1EE
03000 290 900

Opening times

1 Apr – 30 Sep Daily, 9.30am – 5.45pm (last admission 5.15pm) 1 Oct – 31 Mar Daily, 10am – 5.15pm (last admission 4.30pm) Closed 24 Dec (from 2.30pm) & 25 – 26 Dec

Exhibitions at The Royal Pavilion

Back to top