Anatomy of an Artwork: Constable’s The Lock

This is one of a small group of monumental landscapes by John Constable, known as the “Six Footers,” which are viewed by many as the best works of his career. It was treasured by Constable, who kept it in his studio until his death, and chose it for several prestigious exhibitions and as the basis for an engraving that would make it one of the most familiar images in British art. All but two of Constable’s other monumental Stour landscapes are in public institutions. This work is one of only three major paintings by Constable left in private hands. Last seen on the market in 1855, it has remained in the same family collection for over 150 years.