JOHN CONSTABLE, R.A. | A WINTER LANDSCAPE WITH WITH FIGURES ON A PATH, A FOOTBRIDGE AND WINDMILLS BEYOND (AFTER JACOB VAN RUISDAEL)
Property from a Private American Collection
JOHN CONSTABLE, R.A.
(East Bergholt, Suffolk 1776 - 1837 Hampstead)
A WINTER LANDSCAPE WITH WITH FIGURES ON A PATH, A FOOTBRIDGE AND WINDMILLS BEYOND (AFTER JACOB VAN RUISDAEL)
inscribed by Constable lower right: Ruisdael;
extensively inscribed by Constable on the stretcher: Copied from the Original Picture/ by Ruisdael in the possession of Sir Robt [t] Peel, Bt [t] by me / John Constable RA / at Hampstead Sep. 1832 / P.S. color (...) Dog added (...) only (...) Size of the Original (...) and Showed this Picture to Dear John Dunthrone Octr 30 1832 (...) this was the last time I (...) Poor J Dunthorne died on Friday (all Saints) the 2d of November. 1832-at 4 o clock in the afternoon Aged 34 years.
oil on canvas
22 by 28⅛ in.; 55.8 by 71.4 cm.
The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, email@example.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's.
This work is in beautiful condition. The canvas seems to have a very thin old lining. Stretcher marks are slightly visible around the edges. Some mild cracking has developed in the center of the picture. The paint layer is stable. The painting is completely un-abraded. It is clean and varnished. Under ultraviolet light, no retouches are visible in the landscape, except possibly one dot in the side of the small shed in the lower left. All of the other marks in the landscape that show slightly darker under ultraviolet light correspond to original pigment. There are two or three spots of retouching in the sky in the upper right, and a spot between the top of the windmill and the top edge. The condition is remarkably good, and the work should be hung in its current state.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."
His deceased sale, London, Foster's, 15-16 May 1838, lot 45 (to 'Turner');
Edward Gambier Howe, by 1902;
Thence by descent in the family;
By whom sold ("Property of the H.G. Howe Will Trust"), London, Sotheby's, 21 March 2001, lot 69;
There acquired by a private collector;
With Noortman, Maastricht;
From whom acquired by a private collector;
By whom anonymously sold ("Property of a Distinguished Collector"), New York, Christie's, 26 January 2011, lot 34;
R.B. Beckett, ed., John Constable's discourses, Suffolk 1970, pp. 63-4;
L. Parris, C. Shields and J. Fleming-Williams, ed., John Constable: Further Documents and Correspondence, London 1975, pp. 61 and 334;
L. Parris, I. Fleming-Williams, and C. Shields, Constable: Paintings, Watercolours and Drawings, London 1976, exhibition catalogue, p. 169, cat. no. 292, reproduced;
R. Hoozee, L'Opera Completa di Constable, Milan 1979, p. 84;
G. Reynolds, The Later Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, New Haven 1984, p. 242, no. 32.43, pl. 854;
M. Cormack, Constable: 1776-1837, Oxford 1986, p. 220;
P. Huys Janssen and P. Sutton, The Hoogsteder exhibition of Dutch Landscapes, exhibition catalogue, The Hague 1991, p. 25;
R. Parkinson, John Constable: The Man and his Art, London 1998, p. 61;
J.E. Thornes, John Constable's Skies: A Fusion of Art and Science, Birmingham, England 1999, p. 174;
E. Morris, Constable's clouds: paintings and cloud studies by John Constable, exhibition catalogue, Edinburgh 2000, pp. 161-162, reproduced fig. 101;
J. Nash, 'In the memory of John Constable: Constable and the tradition of landscape painting', in Constable and Wivenhoe Park. Reality and Vision, Essex 2000, pp. 41-43, reproduced fig. 25;
S. Slive, Jacob van Ruisdael : a complete catalogue of his paintings, drawings and etchings, New Haven, 2001, pp. 485-486, under cat. no. 688, and pp. 698-700, reproduced fig. Appendix 2l;
S. Slive, Jacob Ruisdael, Master of Light, exhibition catalogue, London 2005, p. 35, fig. 45;
S. Slive, Jacob van Ruisdael: Windmills and Water Mills, Los Angeles 2011, pp. 32-35, reproduced p. 34, fig 25;
M. Evans, "Copying: A More Lasting Remembrance," in Constable: The Making of a Master, London, 2014, pp. 115, 126-127, cat. no. 93, reproduced.
London, Tate Gallery, John Constable, 18 February-25 April 1976, no. 292;
Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Jacob van Ruisdael, Master of Landscape, 23 October 2005 - 5 February 2006, alongside no. 43;
London, Victoria and Albert Museum, Constable: The Making of a Master, 20 September 2014 - 11 January 2015, no. 93.
In the fall of 1832, John Constable painted this remarkable copy of a winter landscape by Jacob van Ruisdael then in the collection of Sir Robert Peel but today in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (fig. 1) . Known for his scrupulous copies of Old Master Paintings, Constable was instructed by Peel to add an element into his copy, so as to distinguish it from the original. Constable thus added a small dog in the lower left corner of his painting, an element he also introduced into his copy of a David Teniers landscape that he completed in 1823 for William Dodsworth, the verger of Salisbury Cathedral .
Constable commenced on this work a few days after the death of his friend, John Fisher. On September 4th, Constable wrote to C.R. Leslie: "I cannot tell you how singularly this death has affected me...I shall pass this week at Hampstead to copy the winter piece [by Ruysdael] - for which indeed my mind seems in a fit state." This, together with the artist's lengthy inscription on the stretcher which references the passing of another life-long friend, John Dunthorne, less than two months later (fig. 2), helps to further illustrate how the specific subject of this wintry composition and the meticulous practice of copying served in some ways to soothe his heartache after the loss of two of his dearest friends.
A champion of landscape painting throughout his career, Constable found inspiration in the landscapes of artists that preceded him, including those of Titian, Claude, Poussin, Rubens, and Jacob van Ruisdael, the latter with whom he found a great affinity, particularly in Ruisdael's ability to "envelop the most ordinary scenes in grandeur " . Constable looked at these artists' works, sometimes even copying them, as books from which much could be understood after a close and attentive reading. The present composition serves as a prime example that it is more than just a pure landscape, as described by Constable in his own words in an 1836 lecture at the British Institution on Dutch and Flemish landscape painting when he used his copy as an illustration:
[Ruysdael’s] Picture represents an approaching thaw. The ground is covered in snow and the trees are still white; but there are two windmills near the center; the one has the sails furled, and is turned in the position from which the wind blew when the mill left off work; the other has the canvas on the pulls and is turned another way, which indicates a change in the wind. The clouds are opening in that direction, which appears by the glow in the sky to be the south...and this change will produce thaw before the morning. The concurrence of these circumstances shows Ruysdael understood what he was painting .
It is of no surprise that Ruisdael's Winter Landscape, dated by Slive to the late 1660s, attracted Constable's attention, as it long received high praise from the seventeenth century onwards. Waagen, who would have seen the work in the collection of Peel around 1837-1839, remarked "The feeling of winter is here expressed with more truth than I have ever seen," while Valentiner in 1913 believed it to be "the finest winter landscape by the artist, unsurpassed by any painting of similar motive in Dutch art" .
1. Oil on canvas, 55.2 by 68.6 cm, inv. no. 569.
2. Oil on panel, 16.8 by 22.6 cm, private collection. See Constable: Impressions of Land, Sea and Sky, exhibition catalogue, 2006, p. 192, cat. no. 49, reproduced.
3. See John Constable's Discourses, e.d., R.B. Beckett, London 1970, p. 63.3.
4. See ibid., p. 64.
5. See Slive 2001, op. Cit., p. 486.