The Lock, one of John Constable’s most famous compositions sold for £9,109,000, 160 years after its last appearance on the market. The monumental landscape, depicting the countryside of the painter’s “careless boyhood”, was the highlight of the sale which featured a significant number of museum-quality works and totalled £22.6 million.
Alex Bell, Joint International Head and Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department said: “The Lock belongs to a small group of pictures that define Constable’s oeuvre and genius. The artist’s absolute mastery as a landscape painter is everywhere in the picture and this was reflected in the result achieved tonight. The painting was one of many museum-quality works presented in the sale, an unprecedented proportion of which were from private collections and came to the market for the first time in several generations. The combination of quality and freshness to the market are key in this field and certainly account for this evening’s strong results.”
This December's Old Master and British Paintings sale will be led by John Constable's The Lock - one of the small group of monumental landscapes know as his 'Six Footers' which for many define the apogee of the artist's career. Painted following the huge critical acclaim that greeted Constable's first attempt at the composition, when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1824, the picture is one of two versions of this celebrated painting, and the one that the artist retained himself and exhibited throughout his career. It was sold following his death, in the artist's studio sale, and has remained in private hands ever since. Depicting a scene on the River Stour, with a distant view of Dedham Church seen across the bucolic river meadows from Flatford Lock, the landscape is that of Constable's childhood, the local area around East Bergholt which first inspired his imagination and made him a painter.