John Constable wrote to his wife on 15th November 1821 from Salisbury, following a short trip to Winchester with his host, John Fisher: 'it is the most magnificent cathedral I ever saw, much more impressive but not so beautiful as Salisbury - and all about the town is much more for a painter than here.'
It was almost certainly whilst wondering around the town that Constable made this diminutive, rapid sketch of the Westgate. Made on a small sketchbook page this beautifully worked sheet displays Constable's ability to communicate an enormous amount of information in pencil in a condensed space. Constable took up position to the south of the old town, looking through the medieval gate into the city. The carefully foreshortened buildings on the right of the drawing and the lightly indicated glimpse of the High Street through the arch demonstrate Constable’s continuing interest in perspective. In common with other drawings of this date, Constable has carefully blocked in the weather, outlining clouds and hatching in areas of sky. Throughout his career Constable used the information in apparently modest sketches such as this to build large-scale, finished oils. At least two larger views of Winchester survive, in pencil, watercolour and wash, the two drawings show Winchester Cathedral and passed, like this drawing, to Isabel Constable. The larger Winchester sheets are now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the gift of the artist’s daughter, Isabel Constable, who bequeathed this drawing to the miniaturist Alfred Tidey in 1888.