John Constable R.A. (Suffolk 1776-1837 Hampstead) East Bergholt Common

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Lot 41*
John Constable R.A.
(Suffolk 1776-1837 Hampstead)
East Bergholt Common

£ 200,000 - 300,000
US$ 240,000 - 360,000
John Constable R.A. (Suffolk 1776-1837 Hampstead)
East Bergholt Common
oil on paper laid down on canvas
19.8 x 25.2cm (7 13/16 x 9 15/16in).


  • Provenance
    By descent to the artist's daughter, Isabel Constable (1822-1888) and thence by descent until offered
    Sale, Christie's, London, 28 May 1891, lot 132 (bt. Colquhoun)
    The Collection of E. A. Colquhoun, and thence by descent until
    Sale, Sotheby's, London, 6 July 1983, lot 273
    With Newhouse Galleries, New York
    With Salander O'Reilly Gallery, New York, 1988, where purchased by the present owner

    Second Series of a Century of British Art, London, Grosvenor Gallery, 1889, probably no. 303
    R. Hoozee, L'opera completa di Constable, Milan, 1979, p. 99, cat. no. 133, ill.
    G. Reynolds and C. Rhyne, John Constable, R.A (1776-1837): An Exhibition: Paintings, Drawings, Watercolors, Mezzotints, New York, 1988, exh. cat., pp. 16-17, ill. front cover
    G. Reynolds, The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, London, 1996, cat. no. 10.49, ill. Pl. 875

    Depicting a view close to East Bergholt House, the Constable family home, the present little plein air sketch is dated to circa 1810 by both Charles Rhyne and Graham Reynolds. The work is of particular personal significance to Constable not only because it was made close to his childhood home but also because it was painted during his long courtship with Maria Bicknell.

    The first in the group of Constable's views towards the rectory, as seen from East Bergholt House, is now in the Fitzwilliam, Cambridge, dated 1808 (inv. no. PD 15 – 1968). A later oil sketch, inscribed '30 Sep/ 1810/ E. Bergholt Common', now in the John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art (inv. 856, fig. 1), also shows a similar view but is taken from an upper window at the Constable family home. Based on these and other similar works which show the rectory in fine detail, Charles Rhyne has established exactly where Constable sat to sketch the present view. Unlike the other images of East Bergholt Common looking towards the rectory, the current sketch was not made from Golding Constable's property but rather from beyond the grounds of the house where the ground slopes down towards the Ryber, a stream that runs through East Bergholt Common. In his entry for the work, Rhyne also cites a sketchbook drawing dated by the artist to 'Augst 2. 1812', formerly in the Collection of Harold Day1, in which the painter looks back towards Golding Constable's house. In this latter drawing it is possible to see precisely the valley from which the present sketch was made.

    East Bergholt house, the childhood home of John Constable, was built by his father Golding Constable in about 1773 at the centre of East Bergholt village. From the rear of the house, it was possible to see the rectory, home of the Rev. Dr. Durand Rhudde, grandfather of Maria Bicknell who went on to become Constable's wife. The couple first met when Maria was only twelve and Constable in his early twenties, they met once again in 1809 when Maria visited her grandfather at the rectory. However, the Rev. Dr. Rhudde was so opposed to their match that they conducted their courtship in secret and only married seven years later, upon the death of Constable's father who had left the artist well provided for. Painted at some point early on in their long courtship, the present work therefore takes on an added poignancy, given that it looks directly at the fields between Constable's family home and the rectory where many of their meetings took place. In a letter to Maria of June 1812 Constable wrote 'From the window where I am writing, I see all those sweet fields where we have passed so many happy hours together. It is with melancholy pleasure that I revisit those scenes that once saw us so happy – yet it is gratifying to me to think that the scenes of my boyish days should have witnessed by far the most affecting event of my life'. 2

    1810 marks a turning point in Constable's small oil sketches of this type; they become more vigorous in their handling with much bolder brushwork and a markedly stronger palette, all of which combine to lend a greater sense of atmosphere to the landscapes depicted as compared to the more faithful representations of his earlier sketches. Two oil sketches in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, both from the John G. Johnson collection, are some of the first examples of this new departure - the aforementioned sketch, dated 30 September 1810 (inv. no. 856) and a study of a A View on the Stour: sunset (inv. no. 857), which is dated to three days earlier. As Rhyne notes of the present study 'As with others of this astonishingly original group, this sketch would not have been possible previous to Constable's dramatic 1810 innovations'3.

    1 See G. Reynolds The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, London, 1996, Text vol., p. 172, cat. no. 12.37, Plates vol., pl. 966
    2 See R. B. Beckett ed/, Constable's Correspondence, London, 1964, Vol. II, p. 78
    3 See G. Reynolds and C. Rhyne, exh. cat. John Constable, R.A (1776-1837): An Exhibition: Paintings, Drawings, Watercolors, Mezzotints, Salander O'Reilly, New York, 1988, p.17
John Constable R.A. (Suffolk 1776-1837 Hampstead) East Bergholt Common
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