Lot 95
  • 95

John Constable R.A.

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  • John Constable
  • Child's Hill looking towards Harrow with rainbow
  • Oil on canvas


Thomas Humphrey Ward (1845-1926), Stocks, Aldbury, Hertfordshire;
Ernest C. Innes, sold by his wife's executors, Christie's, 13th December 1935, lot 98, bt. Barbizon House for £367.10;
Lockett Thomson, Barbizon House;
Leo M. Flesh, Rigue, Ohio;
G.P. Dudley Wallis;
Arthur Tooth and Sons, from whom bt. in 1955 by the husband of the present owner for £3,300


The Hon. Andrew Shirley, John Constable, R.A., 1944, plate 158a

Catalogue Note

This lively and atmospheric sketch dates from circa 1830, and appears to depict the landscape at Child's Hill looking towards Harrow. It is probably a preliminary study for a composition which the artist never pursued to completion, and as with several similar pictures, is thinly painted over drawn outlines with plenty of lively white highlights. It must have been executed quickly in the open air and it is interesting to note that the size of the canvas conforms to what is described in the recent exhibition Constable The Great Landscapes at the Tate Gallery as 'the small to medium-sized canvas, measuring approximately 21 by 30 inches (53 by 76 cm.) that Constable especially favoured for outdoor work'.

It was Sir Charles Holmes, the great pioneering Constable scholar, who first suggested that this picture depicted Child's Hill, and although it is largely devoid of topographical detail, the prominent hills in the distance are closely reminiscent of such panoramic compositions as Child's Hill: Harrow in the distance of 1825 (Reynolds 25.12, plate 583 - Victorian and Albert Museum). The lack of completeness with prominent pencil outline and white highlights can be seen in several of the artist's works, notably Study for The Chair Pier Brighton (Reynolds 27.4, plate 636 - Philadelphia Museum of Art), Osmington Bay (Reynolds 24.7, plate 480 - John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia) and Hove Beach (Reynolds 24.72, plate 543 - Musee Royaux des Beaux - Arts de Belgique, Brussels). Graham Reynolds has pointed out that the lively seated figure of the boy recalls the figures in Maria Constable with three of her children, another unfinished study with pencil underdrawing (Reynolds 22.67, plate 390 - Private Collection). The finely observed panoramic sweep of the composition is reminiscent of many of Constable's Hampstead works whilst the irregular gate looks back to that shown in the foreground of Fen Lane East Bergholt of 1817 (Tate Gallery).

Constable first took a house for his family in Hampstead in 1819, and continued to visit regularly until finally moving there permanently in 1827. He was greatly attracted to Hampstead Heath, which offered a varied landscape full of local inhabitants, extensive views in all directions and above all, the ever changing skies which were to inspire his remarkable series of cloud studies. Much has been written about Constable's interest in meteorologically accurate rendering of cloud types, but he also had a keen interest in rainbows a vivid example of which is a prominent feature in the current picture. Though rainbows can be found in some of his early works, they began to feature regularly in works from the final years of his life, most notably in the Stoke-by-Nayland mezzotint of 1830 and in his great Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows of 1835. The accompanying text for the mezzotint in 'English Landscape Scenery' extols the visual qualities and the physical properties of rainbows - "Nature, in all the varied aspects of her beauty, exhibits no feature more lovely nor any that awaken a more soothing reflection than the Rainbow, 'Mild arch of promise'".

The picture came from the collection of the distinguished writer Thomas Humphrey Ward, principal art critic of The Times, who lived with his wife, the well known novellist Mary Ward, at Stocks, an imposing mansion near Aldbury in Hertfordshire. It subsequently passed to the prominent London collector, Ernest Innes.

We are grateful to Graham Reynolds for his assistance in cataloguing this work.