DIRECT DESCENDENT OF CONSTABLE TO SELL ARTISTS EARLIEST WORKS AT BONHAMS

. September 8, 2007

TO RUN THE FAMILY MILL OR TO PAINT- THAT IS THE QUESTION

Stunning works by John Constable, R.A. (British, 1776-1837) – probably most famous for his idyllic Suffolk countryside scene “The Hay Wain”- will go on sale for the first time at Bonhams in New Bond Street, London on 18 September 2007. The three paintings are fine examples of Constable’s earliest work.

Constable at a crossroads

Constable painted the three watercolours in his early twenties, at a time when he faced a crossroads in his life. He was still very unsure whether to become a professional painter or to take on his father’s lucrative corn mill. He faced considerable opposition from his family, who wanted him to take on the family business and his desire to become an artist threatened, for a time, his engagement to childhood sweetheart Maria Bicknell.

The paintings date from a time when Constable was still developing his technique, he had yet to acquire a concrete style and seems to have been influenced by other artists such as Ramsay Reinagle (1775-1862).

All of the paintings descend directly from Mary Constable, the artist’s younger sister and form part of the Whalley portfolio, which remains the primary source of knowledge of the development of Constable’s style from this early period. The portfolio was inherited by the Rev. Daniel Constable Whalley, from his aunt Mary Constable and has been passed down the family line. The present owner is a direct descendent of John Constable.

Constable lived most of his life in the Suffolk countryside, now often referred to as “Constable Country”. The affection that he felt for this part of the world never diminished and inspired some of his greatest work. Although he is now one of Britain’s most loved and valuable artists, Constable ironically only ever sold 20 paintings in Britain during his lifetime. He had more success in France but refused to leave England to promote his work internationally, stating: “I would rather be a poor man [in England] than a rich man abroad”.

The watercolours are to be sold separately; the first, entitled A Rider and Companion Crossing a Bridge is a delicate watercolour in pen and black ink with a monochrome wash and is estimated to fetch £12,000-18,000. Also offered are A Mountainous Landscape, estimated at £6,000-9,000 and A River in a Hilly Valley, estimated at £4,000-6,000. Two of the paintings were exhibited at the Tate Gallery in 1976.

Category: Auction News

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