The National Gallery painting, according to Martin Daves's catalogue, is unfinishd. But to think of "Weymouth Bay" as "unfinished" is to detract from one of its great charms-the way the priming of canvas, lightly scumbled over, gives the effect of sand washed by incoming waves; and just as these waves, on withdrawing, expose the beach, so in Constable's painting one sees the sandy shingle between the breakers. "Weymouth Bay" is a tour de force of handling.
Comparing the National Gallery and the Louvre versions, another important aspect of Constable's skill is evident - his consistency of vision. Note the sketchy rendering of the rocks in the foreground of the London painting and then observe, in the middle distance, the barely perceptible flock of sheep. In the Paris picture the rocky foreground is much more detailed, and consequently the sheep are readily discernible and can even be counted. This ability to organize the amount of detail and the sharpness of focus in various planes lends to Constable's landscapes their extraordinary actuality.
Although "Weymouth Bay" was painted at a moment of exceptional happiness in Constable's life, the place itself held overtones of sadness. Here his cousin in a violent storm had gone down with his ship; and here also a second tragedy had occurred. Constable wrote to Mrs. leslie, sending her a proof of the mezzotint of "Weymouth Bay", "I ... apply to it the lines of Wordsworth - 'That sea in anger and that dismal shoar [sic].' I think of 'Wordsworth' for on that spot, perished his brother in the wreck of the Abergavenny." Little wonder that Constable found the ominous skies of the Louvre painting, quite apart from technical reasons, more fitting as a basis for Lucas's engraving.