John Constable R.A.
- John Constable
- A willow beside water, a church beyond
- Watercolour over pencil heightened with pen and brown ink and scratching out;
signed lower left: John Constable R.A. / 1832.
With Agnew's, London;
Sale, London, Sotheby's, 25 November 1999, lot 52, to the father of the present owner
London, Tate Gallery, John Constable, 18 February-25 April 1976, no. 293
I. Fleming-Williams, Constable Landscape Watercolours & Drawing, London 1976, p. 104;
G. Reynolds, The Later Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, London 1984, p. 258, no. 34.9;
This watercolour is one of three recorded sheets of the same composition on which Constable has constructed a view incorporating a building alongside a gnarled tree. In two of these, he depicts a church in the background, in one, a cottage.1 The other watercolour with a church is in the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven.2 In that work, the church appears to be based upon the same idea as in the present sheet, but there is no lantern on top of the tower. The Yale watercolour is dated 15th April 1834, and it is therefore likely that the present watercolour was drawn at a similar date in 1834.
Referring to the Yale watercolour, Christopher White points out that the church is a free variation of the interpretation of Stoke Poges Church which Constable used in his 1833 design for illustrations to John Martin's edition of Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (Victoria and Albert Museum, 174-1888).3
The clue to the purpose behind this watercolour may be in the fact that it is fully signed and dated (as on the other two sheets mentioned). It has been suggested that Constable drew them for inclusion in a Lady's album of drawings and prints. It is known that he undertook such tasks as he wrote to John Martin on 26th November 1830, 'were it not for ladies' (al)bums, I know not what we poor landscape painters would do.'
The date is easy to read as 1832 and some commentators have dated this sheet to that year, but the record of the two 1834 sheets of the same composition places this firmly in that year.
1. G. Reynolds, The Late Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, London 1984, p. 259, no. 34.10
2. G. Reynolds, op.cit, p. 258, no. 34.8
3. C. White, English Landscape 1630-1850, Yale 1977, no. 169