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    Sale 7635

    British Art on Paper

    10 December 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 2

    John Constable, R.A. (1776-1837)

    Fishermen in front of a Gothic ruin, another ruin on the right

    Price Realised  


    John Constable, R.A. (1776-1837)
    Fishermen in front of a Gothic ruin, another ruin on the right
    with inscription, 'John Constable. One of the drawings/left to Mary (sister) Constable and down/by descent./bt. at sale at Woodbridge/1972 £20 c.' (on a label attached to the backboard)
    pen and black ink with grey and blue wash
    5 3/8 x 7¼ in. (13.5 x 18.3 cm.)

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    Ian Fleming-Williams, who previously owned this drawing, suggested that it was datable to 1796 or 1797, when the artist was only twenty years old. In 1796, the young Constable had become acquainted with John Thomas 'Antiquity' Smith (1766-1833), under whose guidance he studied informally for the following two years. At this date, Constable's parents were not yet reconciled to the idea of their son becoming an artist and it seems that Smith had some influence in this respect: shortly after he visited the Constables in 1798, young John was given permission to move to London and begin his formal training.

    When the present drawing was executed Constable's main point of reference was Smith's work. Keen to help develop his protégé's skills, the older artist had sent him casts of sculpture, books and his own drawings. Fleming-Williams has identified Smith's influence in the unusually short, almost agitated pen-strokes of the present drawing, with which Constable has tried to replicate his mentor's characteristically soft and interrupted lines (I. Fleming-Williams & L. Parris, op. cit., pp. 148-9). The subject of the present watercolour is almost certainly invented: it blends the classical harmony of a composition by Claude with the influence of the prevailing Romantic interest in atmospheric, overgrown ruins. It is a rare insight into the early development of an artist who would, in later life, radically change his contemporaries' approach to landscape painting.

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    Bequeathed by the artist to his sister, Mary Constable, and by descent to her nephew, the Reverend Daniel Whalley, by 1865, and by descent.
    Anonymous sale [Whalley]; Dennis H.B. Neal, Woodbridge, 9 November 1971, lot 31.
    Ian Fleming-Williams, and by descent to the present owner.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Collection of Ian Fleming-Williams


    I. Fleming-Williams, Constable: Landscape Watercolours & Drawings, London, 1976, p. 15, fig. 3.
    I. Fleming-Williams and L. Parris, The Discovery of Constable, London, 1984, p. 149, pl. 72.
    G. Reynolds, The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, New Haven and London, 1996, p. 14, no. 97.8, pl. 45.


    Sudbury, Gainsborough's House, and London, Leger Galleries, From Gainsborough to Constable, 1991, no. 40.