Important John Constable To Be Auctioned But Will It Get An Export Licence

John Constable

A major work by the English painter John Constable, R.A. (1776-1837) is to go under the hammer at Christie’s at the end of June. The full-scale six-foot ‘sketch’ for View on the Stour near Dedham, circa 1821-22, will be offered alongside other masterpieces by Reynolds, Leighton, Lowry, Spencer, Bacon and Freud in Christie’s 250th anniversary Defining British Art sale in London on 30 June (Estimate on Request: in the region of £12-16 million). The work, the last great six-footer sketch in private hands, clearly illustrates why Constable was considered the father of British Modernism and why the French painters, particularly the Impressionists, revered Constable as an instinctive painter of nature and the elements.

Jussi Pylkkänen, Global President of Christie’s International: “Not since Constable’s Lock have we had the opportunity to work with a painting of this calibre by one of the titans of British painting.  To stand in front of this expansive work, is to understand why the great British modern painters and even the French Impressionists revered Constable as their spiritual mentor. Constable famously said that “Painting is but another word for feeling” and later that “I do not consider myself at work unless I am before a six-foot canvas”.  Visitors to Christie’s in June will be able to see a rarely exhibited masterpiece by Constable which perfectly describes his passion for paint and his ability to paint dramatic landscapes on the grand scale. It is fitting that Christie’s should be given the opportunity to sell this masterpiece in our Defining British Art sale which marks the 250th anniversary of the founding of this great institution.” 

John Stainton, International Director and Head of British Old Master Paintings at Christie’s, added: “In his celebrated series of full-scale sketches Constable gave full rein to his artistic expression, freed from the necessity to work on a high level of ‘finish’ in the manner contemporary taste demanded. Kenneth Clark, Director of the National Gallery 1934-1946, for good reason described them as ‘the greatest thing in English art’. This example, the last to remain in private hands, was bought privately over twenty years ago, having last appeared on the market at Christie’s in 1883.  It survives in astonishingly fresh condition, allowing the viewer to fully appreciate the energy, passion and skill of the most celebrated painter of the English landscape.”

It is rare for a major John Constable such as this example to hit the auction block. It is important enough to be saved for the Nation, as any number of collections would be proud to display it. The questions remains, will this painting ever be allowed to be exported out of Britain?


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