John Constable, R.A. (East Bergholt 1776-1837 London) Malvern Hall: A garden gate at the west end

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Lot 45
John Constable, R.A.
(East Bergholt 1776-1837 London)
Malvern Hall: A garden gate at the west end

Sold for £ 17,400 (US$ 24,578) inc. premium
John Constable, R.A. (East Bergholt 1776-1837 London)
Malvern Hall: A garden gate at the west end
pencil on laid, trimmed paper
9.5 x 15.3cm (3 3/4 x 6in).

Footnotes

  • Literature:
    Graham Reynolds, The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable (Yale, 1996), 09.21, pl. 747, p. 132;
    Ian Fleming-Williams, Constable and his Drawings (London, 1990), pp. 24, 25, fig. 22.

    Provenance:
    Sir J C Robinson;
    His sale, Christie’s 21 April 1902;
    Reynolds;
    Anonymous sale Christie’s 12 July 1998 (14);
    Private collection.

    The above work belongs to a series of drawings depicting Malvern Hall, Solihull, the home of Henry Greswolde Lewis. Malvern Hall is an early 18th century stone building with seven bays and a pedimented three-bay centre. Sir John Soane altered the building in 1784 and so Constable’s view shows Soane’s recent alterations (to the lower two-bay wings and the shallowly curved porch with unfluted Ionic columns, on the exterior).

    Constable’s first visit to the home of Henry Greswolde Lewis in 1809, was primarily to paint the portrait of Mary Freer for Greswold Lewis (the oil hangs in the Paul Mellon Collection, Yale). It was during this trip that Constable spent nearly a month in the Midlands, painting and sketching Malvern Hall and its environs, as well as Solihull and Warwick. There are at least seven views of Malvern Hall from this trip, including three oils and four pencil drawings. It is clear that Constable worked his way around the house and grounds, experimenting with distance and angles. The most finished of this group is the oil painting which hangs in the Tate Britain and shows the Hall from the lake (see fig. 1).

    The drawing of Malvern Hall: A garden gate at the west end shows the Hall from a differing angle and distance than in the oil version in the Tate. Its focus is architectural, and the trees provide as much weight to the work, as the Hall and the garden walls. The work demonstrates that Constable was capable of working in many different styles to achieve different effects. For the most part, the pencil drawings of the Hall all display a strong vertical architectural line, as though Constable were trying to root the building into the landscape. In contrast, the oil versions all contain large amounts of sweeping landscape with the Hall sitting firmly in the distance. this effect of strong, vertical architectural line, seen in the drawings, has been transferred into the oil versions, but softened by the atmospheric, rolling landscape.

    Constable returned to Malvern Hall in 1820 and was commissioned to paint two views of the Hall for Greswolde Lewis's sister, Magdalene, Countess of Dysart. There are four oil paintings of the house from this period, three of which are almost exactly the same. Whilst Constable clearly drew on his 1809 studies, he depicted the house with its new altarations. Greswolde had written to Constable stating that the house would 'make a much better figure in Landscape than when you painted it last' because he had the work undertaken by Soane reversed, so that the Hall appeared in its original state, complete with acrhitraves, keystohnes and other architectural embellishments.1 One of these views of the Hall was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1822. The present lot bears a similarity to these three oil versions of 1820 as Constable has used trees to frame the Hall, which is set further forward than in other depictions. The earlier landscapes in oil show a more open landscape with the Hall set further back.

    1. Reynolds, The Later Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, p. 89.
John Constable, R.A. (East Bergholt 1776-1837 London) Malvern Hall: A garden gate at the west end
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