Lot 45
  • 45

John Constable, R.A.

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • John Constable, R.A.
  • Dedham Vale, with a view to Langham church from the fields just east of Vale Farm, East Bergholt
  • inscribed on label verso: John Constable
  • oil on millboard, set into panel


Probably bought from the artist by J.B. Chamberlain, 1830;

By descent to his stepson Pearce;

From whom purchased by Wynn Ellis;

Given by him to Mr Wright by 1876;

With Sedelmeyer, Paris, where acquired by George A. Hearn in 1892;

His sale, New York, American Art Association, 25 February - 1 March 1918, lot 369, to Lorenz on behalf of Mr and Mrs Robert Jackson, Concord, New Hampshire;

By whom given to William Martin;

By descent to his daughter Nancy Ross Martin by 1984;

From whom purchased by Peter H. Davidson & Co., New York;

With Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, New York;

Private Collection, New Jersey;

Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby's, 8 July 2010, where acquired by the present owner for £240,000.


New York, Salander O'Reilly Gallery, John Constable, R.A. (1776-1837), 1988, no. 12 (reproduced in reverse).


Catalogue of the Collection of Foreign and American Paintings Owned by Mr George A. Hearn, 1908, no. 38;

The New York Times, 2 March 1918, p. 13, col. 3;

Paintings in the Collection of Mr and Mrs Robert Jackson, 1929, no. 33;

G. Reynolds, The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, 2 vols., London 1996,  p. 128, no. 08.58, reproduced fig. 739;

H. von Beat Wismer, 'El Greco bis Mondrian: Bilder aus Einer Schweizer Privatsammlung', in Die Autoren, Wien und Verlag Koln und Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau, 1996.

Catalogue Note

Painted circa 1814-15, this beautiful plein air oil sketch captures the dramatic effects of a rain squall passing through Dedham Vale, in Suffolk. The scene captures the view over rolling pasture and cornfields from East Bergholt, the village where Constable was born, looking towards Langham in the Stour Valley, with a distant view of the church spire just visible on the skyline. It is a view that the artist knew intimately, and one which was dear to his heart. Indeed the viewpoint is taken only a short distance from the artist’s studio, and scenes of the landscape around Dedham Vale would be the inspiration for many of his greatest works.

The painting is an important example of Constable’s early experiments with working outside of the confines and strictures of the studio, and his early attempts at capturing the transient effects and ephemeral power of nature. In the autumn of 1814, following a summer painting and sketching in Suffolk, Constable returned to his house at Charlotte Street in London, where he wrote to his friend John Dunthorne of his difficulties in finishing summer landscapes whilst 'it is bleak and looks as if there would be a shower of sleet'.1 He decided that in future he would attempt to finish a small oil sketch on the spot for every landscape painting he intended to make. It is from this period that small oil sketches begin to appear regularly as part of his output, fine examples of which include his small sketch of The Stour Valley and Dedham Village (Leeds City Art Galleries), also painted in 1814 and believed to be a study for a finished work of the same title which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1815 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).

The following year, as the autumn of 1815 drew to a close, Constable made the unusual decision to remain in East Bergholt and spend the winter there, rather than relocating to London to attend the academy, as had previously been his habit. With the exception of short visits to London in November 1815, and January 1816, he remained there until the following March, working in his studio from sketches made over the summer. In the decades that followed his working practise would radically change, turning ever closer to nature, and eschewing the artifice of derivative landscape that was the convention of academic theory. The presence of a single spot of chrome yellow in the lower right of the picture suggests that the painting was still in Constable’s studio whilst he was working on The Wheatfield (Private Collection), circa 1815-16, when he began using this new and distinctive pigment.

1. See R. B. Beckett, Correspondence of John Constable, London 1962, vol. I, p. 101.