Lot 194
  • 194

JOHN CONSTABLE, R.A. | Cottages at East Bergholt, Suffolk

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • John Constable
  • Cottages at East Bergholt, Suffolk
  • oil on millboard
  • 12 x 17.9 cm.; 4 3/4  x 7 in.


Cecil Eldred Hughes (1875–1941), Orpington Priory, Kent;
Thence by descent until acquired by the present owner.

Catalogue Note

This charming plein-air sketch depicts a row of cottages along a lane on the edge of the village of East Bergholt. The work dates to circa 1809–11, a period when Constable seems to have taken up on-the-spot outdoor oil sketching in earnest. The handling bears all the characteristic hallmarks of Constable’s early sketching style; with rather even, relatively smooth brushwork and strong tonal contrasts. The thick and distinctive brush line marking the edges of the roofs on the cottage to the right is particularly characteristic of his work at this period. "I should paint my own places best – They made me a painter..."

East Bergholt, a village on the banks of the River Stour in Dedham Vale, on the border between Suffolk and Essex, was where Constable was born and brought up. His parents, Golding and Ann Constable, lived in a substantial mansion there and owned 93 acres of arable land around the village, which the family farmed. Golding was also a prosperous miller and successful businessman. He owned watermills at Flatford and Dedham, as well as a windmill on East Bergholt Heath, and he traded corn and coal out of Mistley Wharf on the North Essex coast. He also owned a coal yard at Brantham and served as one of the Commissioners of the River Stour Navigation.

The Constables' social position, and the fact that his father owned a large portion of it, gave the young artist unfettered access to much of the land around his childhood home, and an intimate knowledge of its gently rolling hills, picturesque villages, green riverbanks and luxuriant meadows. It was this visual reservoir, accumulated during the halcyon days of his childhood, which would not only inspire Constable’s earliest endeavours in paint but provided him with much of the raw materials for many of his greatest paintings. It is today an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, largely unchanged since Constable's day.

The painting previously belonged to Cecil Eldred Hughes, a noted collector and scholar of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century British art. He authored several books, including Early English Watercolour, published by Methuen and Co. in 1929, owned at least one pencil drawing by Turner now in the British Museum (ref. no. 1946.1030.1) and a watercolour by Francis Towne that was much admired by Paul Oppe, and was an amateur artist himself – a black chalk and watercolour view of the Villa Medici and St. Trinità de'Monti in Rome by him is in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (inv. no. E574-1941).

We are grateful to Anne Lyles, who dates this work to circa 1809–11, for her assistance with the cataloguing of this lot.