John Constable RA (Suffolk 1776-1837 Hampstead) A study of figures and horse-drawn wagons
Lot 100*
John Constable, R.A. (Suffolk 1776-1837 Hampstead) A study of figures and horse-drawn wagons on Hampstead Heath, intended for Branch Hill Pond, Hampstead
£60,000 - 80,000
US$ 100,000 - 130,000
Auction Details
Lot Details
John Constable, R.A. (Suffolk 1776-1837 Hampstead)
A study of figures and horse-drawn wagons on Hampstead Heath, intended for Branch Hill Pond, Hampstead
oil on paper, laid down on board, incised for transfer
19.5 x 24cm (7 11/16 x 9 7/16in).


    Said to have come from the artist's studio
    Thence by descent to one of his granddaughters
    Sale, Christie's, London, 28 July 1950, lot 39 (A study for the ponds, Hampstead Heath, on paper, and A landscape with pool, on panel, two (2), 45 gns.)

    This important study by Constable was last seen on the market over sixty years ago. It was painted, most probably, in 1824, when Constable was at the height of his fame, having won the Gold Medal at the Paris Salon for The Haywain and View on the Stour near Dedham, that year. Orders from the Paris dealers, Arrowsmith and Schroth, together with commissions from English patrons were plentiful; this coupled with the fact that he was travelling between Hampstead and Brighton, where he had moved his family in May 1824, for Maria's health, put significant pressure on his ability to produce pictures on time. For this reason it seems that Constable put his studio assistant, John Dunthorne Jun., to more and more use at this period, not only in priming canvases, but contributing the background lay-ins to some works.

    The present study by Constable is the compositional beginning for the right-hand foreground of two important pictures of Branch Hill Pond, Hampstead, painted in 1824. The first is the version exhibited at the Royal Academy, London in 1825, no. 115, and purchased by Francis Darby for 130 gns (see Graham Reynolds, The late paintings of John Constable (Yale University Press, 1984), p. 158, cat. no. 25.5, pl. 256) and the second is the replica (?), commissioned by Schroth (Reynolds op. cit., no. 25.7).

    The exact sequence of the genesis of these two pictures is unknown, but Beckett states that Dunthorne had laid in the outline (of one of these pictures), by 16 July 1824 and that Constable completed the picture at Brighton (R.B. Beckett (ed.), John Constable's Correspondence ( Suffolk Records Office, 1962-8), vol. IV, p. 186). Beckett (op.cit.) quotes Constable in vol. VI, p. 187, in a letter to John Fisher (Archdeacon of Salisbury) of 17 December, 1824, explaining how he came to make two almost identical versions of Branch Hill Pond and its pendant (see Reynolds, op. cit., p. 159): 'I have painted two of my best landscapes for Mr Schroth at Paris. They will soon go but I have copied them, so it is immaterial which is sent away.'

    The most plausible explanation for our study is that it is a worked-up version in oil of a pencil drawing of the figures, horses and carts, now lost, but very close to the drawing of this subject in the British Museum Hampstead sketchbook of 1819, which Constable intended to be the foreground focus of Branch Hill Pond. The outline of the closer horse, cart and figures are incised, which implies that they were traced while the paint was still relatively wet and then, presumably, transposed by Johnny Dunthorne into the right-hand corners of the canvases he had prepared.

    This study, which is 25cm. wide, is replicated exactly in the bottom right-hand third of the two 75cm.-wide canvases mentioned above. It is a fascinating insight into Constable's studio practice, at the height of his career.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that the tracing related to this oil sketch is published by Graham Reynolds in the Additions section of The Later Paintings of John Constable (Yale University Press, 1984), p. 247, cat. no. 25.5.A, plate 1411 (as by John Constable).
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