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James Morrison (1789-1857) of Balham Hill, London, and Basildon Park, Berkshire, by whom acquired for 150 guineas on the opening day of the 1824 Royal Academy exhibition, and by descent to his grandson,
Colonel James Archibald Morrison (1873-1934), at Basildon Park, until this was sold in 1929, and subsequently by inheritance through his daughter Mary, wife of Major John Dent-Brocklehurst of Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire;
The Trustees of the Walter Morrison Picture Settlement; Sotheby's, London, 14 November 1990, lot 128 (sold £10,780,000).
Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, on loan to the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, 1992-2012.
JOHN CONSTABLE, R.A.
FROM THE CARMEN THYSSEN-BORNEMISZA COLLECTION
Constable's celebrated masterpiece The Lock, which was acquired at auction in 1990 for what was then a world record auction price for any British picture, was one of the towering masterpieces acquired by Baron and Baroness Thyssen for their Thyssen-Bornemisza Collections Trust. Having initially been loaned temporarily to the Victoria and Albert Museum, it was placed on loan to the newly founded Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, in Madrid, when it opened in 1992. The Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, which consists of the large body of works from the original collections of the Baron's father, the Baron himself, and the works that the Baron and Baroness collected throughout their marriage, was first formally shown to the public in 1996, in an exhibition entitled From Kandinsky to Canaletto, but the collection had by then grown to such an extent that this was only a partial representation of the breadth and depth of the Baron and Baroness's collecting. This exhibition, however, showed the principal thematic lines that guided the collection; it was to be selective in terms of quality of works but wide ranging chronologically and thematically. Areas of particular focus were seventeenth-century Dutch painting, eighteenth-century view painting, nineteenth-century naturalist landscape painting, nineteenth and twentieth century Spanish painting, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and the first avant-gardes of the 20th century, with a special emphasis on German Expressionism. In 1999 an extension was built to the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza at the Villahermosa Palace so that the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection could be shown there alongside that of the historical Thyssen-Bornemisza collection, that had been finally acquired by the Spanish state from Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza's Thyssen-Bornemisza Collections Trust in 1993. The Baron and the Baroness were committed to exhibiting the collection widely and internationally and in 2001 Constable's Lock was one of the centrepieces of the landscape exhibition organized by the collection entitled Landscapes from Breughel to Kandinsky in honour of Baron Thyssen at the Austellungshalle in Bonn shortly before his death.
Baroness Thyssen's husband Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, or 'Heini' Thyssen as he was known to his friends, followed in his father Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza's footsteps, and became one of the world's greatest art collectors. Using the enormous wealth generated from the industrial conglomerate that he had inherited from his father and worked so successfully to rebuild and diversify after the Second World War, he not only preserved and augmented the outstanding collection of Old Master pictures that his father had formed in the 1920s and 1930s, but also significantly expanded the range of the collection through his own remarkable acquisitions most particularly of the work of European and American artists from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The collection that his father Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza had formed with the intention of creating a panorama of European painting from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century, was outstanding not only for its scale but also for its quality. It reflected Baron Heinrich's discerning taste and his particular passion for the Early German and Netherlandish schools, fields in which his purchasesincluded such masterpieces as Hans Holbein the Younger's Portrait of Henry VIII, Albrecht Durer's Christ Among the Doctors, Jan van Eyck's Annunciation and Memling's Portrait of a Young Man. Italian pictures also appealed to him and he was able to acquire works of the calibre of Domenico Ghirlandaio's Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni, Carpaccio's imposing Portrait of a Knight, of 1510, Fra Angelico's Madonna and Child, Bramantino's Risen Christ, and Caravaggio's Saint Catherine of Alexandria. His collection was largely displayed at the Villa Favorita, the seventeenth-century mansion on Lake Lugano, that he had acquired from Prince Friedrich Leopold of Prussia in 1932, to which he had added a picture gallery in 1937. On his death in 1947, the collection, consisting of some 525 works, was divided between his children.
Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza's most important early decision was to preserve the historic collection that his father had built at the Villa Favorita and he devoted much of his energy over the following fifteen years to tenaciously buying back pictures that had been inherited by members of his wider family. It was not until the mid-1950s that he turned his attention to adding new works. While his first additions to the collection seemed to be guided by the parameters of his father's collection, his buying soon evolved and he both expanded and extended its range. Perhaps most notable were his acquisitions of Baroque pictures, adding an outstanding group of paintings by followers of Caravaggio. Guided principally by the quality of individual works, he augmented the collection with exceptional individual pictures some of which complemented his father's purchases such as El Greco's Annunciation, as well as buying remarkable examples of the work of artists that had not been previously represented in the collection such as Watteau and Ribera. His taste, however, was considerably more eclectic than that of his father and while he added over two hundred paintings to the existing Old Master collection, he also acquired over nine hundred more modern works which were completely outside his father's range of interest, forming a remarkable collection of nineteenth-century and twentieth-century art. This ranged from Constable's celebrated Lock to works by Jackson Pollock, with distinguished examples of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Cubist art, significant works by American nineteenth-century artists, an especially strong emphasis on the German Expressionists and painters of the School of London. Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza was himself twice painted by Lucian Freud.
The Lock has been on view in Spain for the past 24 years along with the entirety of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. An initial agreement was signed with the Spanish Government in 1988, and the nineteenth-century Villahermosa Palace, in Madrid, not far from the Prado Museum, was refurbished and renamed the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. It opened in 1992, displaying over eight hundred works of art from the collections and negotiations with the Spanish Government eventually culminated with the final acquisition of the historic core of the collection for Spain in 1993.
'My picture is liked at the Academy. Indeed it forms a decided feature and its light cannot be put out, because it is the light of nature - the Mother of all that is valuable in poetry, painting, or anything else - where an appeal to the soul is required. The language of the heart is the only one that is universal - and Sterne says that he disregards all rules - but makes his way to the heart as he can. My execution annoys most of them and all the scholastic ones - perhaps the sacrifices I make for lightness and brightness is too much, but these things are the essence of landscape.'
Constable writing to John Fisher of The Lock's reception at the Royal Academy, May 1824
CONSTABLE WAS ONE OF THE MOST original artistic forces to emerge in the early nineteenth century. Like that of his near contemporary Turner, the impact of his work would continue to reverberate in Britain, and internationally, long after his death. His commitment to the purity of undiluted nature as the principal theme of his work, which remained a constant over the course of his artistic development, unredeemed by any overt historical, religious or mythological references, challenged the orthodoxies of the artistic hierarchy of the day.
The Lock was first exhibited in 1824, one of the most significant years in Constable's career, which saw The Hay Wain and View on the Stour exhibited to great acclaim at the Paris Salon, and the award to the artist of a gold medal by King Charles X. The artist's success in France has been seen by many art historians as having significantly influenced the course of the history of art, as his intense observation of nature inspired French artists in a movement of landscape painting that would find its fullest expression half a century later in the work of the Impressionists.
Constable's sole Royal Academy exhibit of 1824, The Lock is the fifth in a celebrated series of six large-scale canvases of the Stour valley that he exhibited at the Academy between 1819 and 1825. The first of the so-called 'six foot' canvases that define his artistic maturity, these works represent a distillation of Constable's profound emotional and artistic response to the scenery of his native Suffolk that was central to his art. This series, which was to secure his professional reputation, represented a radical transition from Constable's earlier work both in the raw ambition of their scale and in the unprecedented, indirect working method that Constable adopted in order to realise his artistic vision. Among the series are several of Constable's most celebrated works, including The White Horse (1819; New York, Frick Collection), and The Hay Wain (1821; London, National Gallery). The Lock is the only picture the series to remain in private hands.
C.R. Leslie, Life of Constable, London, 1845, pp. 131-2.
G.F. Waagen, Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain: forming a supplemental volume to the Treasures of Art in Great Britain, London, 1857, p. 302.
C.R. Leslie, with notes by R.C. Leslie, Life and Letters of John Constable, R.A., London, 1896, pp. 149 and 173, illustrated opposite p. 173.
C.J. Holmes, Constable, New York, 1901, p.18.
C.J. Holmes, Constable and His Influence on Landscape Painting, London, 1902, pp. 246-7.
Lord Windsor, John Constable, R.A., London, 1903, pp. 57, 58, 73, and 76.
A. Whitman, Samuel William Reynolds, London, 1903, pp. 12, 13, and 99, no. 347.
C.L. Hind, Constable, London, 1909, p. 71.
The Hon. A. Shirley, The Published Mezzotints of David Lucas after John Constable R.A., Oxford, 1930, p. 198, pl. 35.
The Hon. A. Shirley, John Constable R.A., London, 1948, p. 23, pl. 87.
S.J. Key, John Constable: His Life and Work, London, 1948, p. 51.
C.R. Leslie, ed. J. Mayne, Memoirs of the Life of John Constable, London, 1951, pp. 115, 118, 120-2, 134, 141-2, 151, 153.
The Hon. A. Shirley, 'John Constable's Lock: The newly discovered study', Connoisseur, May 1951, pp. 71-5 and 172.
R.B. Beckett, 'Constable's Lock', Burlington Magazine, XCIV, 1952, pp. 252-6.
G. Reynolds, Constable: The Natural Painter, New York, 1965, pp. 70-3, 78, 83, 119, 142, and note to no. 41.
R.B. Beckett, ed., Constable's Correspondence, Ipswich, I, 1962, pp. 209, 211, 212; II, 1964, pp. 279, 307-8, 320-1, 323, 335, 340, 410-11; III, 1965, pp. 23, 120; IV, 1966, pp. 95, 102, 122, 129-30, 158, 180, 193, 265-9, 280, 315, 377; V, 1967, pp. 60-1, 83, 90, 179; VI, 1968, pp. 112, 114, 116, 150, 154-8, 180, 185, 191, 200 and 216.
B. Taylor, Constable, London, 1973, pp. 207-8, no. 39.
G. Reynolds, Catalogue of the Constable collection: Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1973, pp. 25, 167, 180.
R.B. Beckett, ed., Constable's Further Correspondence, Ipswich, 1975, p. 205.
A. Smart and A. Brooks, Constable and his Country, London, 1976, pp. 52, 94, 97-102, 131 and 138-9.
J.L. Fraser, John Constable, London, 1976, p. 137.
I. Fleming-Williams, Constable: Landscape Watercolours and Drawings, London, 1976, p. 92.
R. Gadney, John Constable, R.A., 1776-1837: A catalogue of drawings and watercolours with a selection of mezzotints by David Lucas after Constable for 'English landscape scenery' in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Cambridge, 1976, pp. 20, 98, 100, 108.
R. Gatty, Portrait of a Merchant Prince: James Morrison, 1789-1857, Northallerton, 1977, pp. 30 and 245.
R. Hoozee, L'opera completa di Constable, Milan, 1979, pp. 128-9, pl. 404.
J. Walker, John Constable, New York, 1979, p. 114, illustrated p. 115.
P.D. Smith, John Constable, New York, 1981, p. 53, illustrated p. 60.
M. Rosenthal, Constable: The Painter and His Landscape, 1983, pp. 151-8, pl. 190.
G. Reynolds, Constable's England, New York, 1983, pp. 72 and 78.
G. Reynolds, The Later Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, London, 1984, I, pp. 133-5, no. 24.1, II, pl. 475.
I. Fleming-Williams and L. Parris, The Discovery of Constable, New York, 1984, pp. 12 and 196.
M. Cormack, Constable, Oxford, 1986, pp. 145, 148, 156-7, 167, 176-8, 182, 186, 191, pl. 154.
D. Sutton and G. Reynolds, eds., John Constable, exhibition catalogue, Tokyo, Isetan Museum of Art, 1986, pp. 158-9.
M. Rosenthal, Constable, New York, 1987, pp. 137-40, pl. 132 and on the cover.
C. Rhynne, 'Changes in the Appearance of Paintings by John Constable', in Appearance, opinion, change: Evaluating the look of paintings, London, 1990, pp. 72-4.
I. Fleming-Williams, Constable and his Drawings, London, 1990, pp. 188-199, fig. 180.
S. Cove, 'Constable's oil painting materials and techniques', in L. Parris and I. Fleming-Williams, Constable, exhibition catalogue, London, Tate Gallery, 1991, pp. 498, 506 and 527.
J. Ivy, Constable and the Critics, 1802-1837, Suffolk, 1991, p. 146.
F. Pérez Carreño, John Constable, Madrid, 1993, pp. 86-8 and 139-40.
M. Rosenthal, 'Constable, John', in J. Turner, ed., The Dictionary of Art, London and New York, 1996, VII, pp. 753-4.
L. Eitner, The Collections of the National Gallery of Art, Washington: French Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Oxford, 2000, pp. 344 and 346, illustrated.
G.T.E. Shackleford and F.E. Wiseman, Monet, Renoir and the Impressionist Landscape, exhibition catalogue, Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada and Houston, The Museum of Fine Art, 2000, p. 56. fig. 18.
M. Bailey, ed., The Folio Society Book of the 100 Greatest Paintings, London, 2001, p. 136, illustrated.
J. Arnaldo, ed.,Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, 2004, I, pp. 214-7, illustrated pp. 215 and 217 (detail).
G. Reynolds, 'Constable's Skies', in F. Bancroft, ed., Constable's Skies, exhibition catalogue, New York, Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, Norwich, 2004, pp. 22-3, illustrated.
S. Cove, 'The Painting Techniques of Constable's Six Footers', in A. Lyles, ed., Constable: The Great Landscapes, exhibition catalogue, London, Tate Britain, 2006, pp. 55, 59, 64-66.
J. Gage, 'Constable: The Big Picture', in A. Lyles, ed., Constable: The Great Landscapes, op. cit., p. 26.
A. Lyles, 'Soliciting Attention: Constable, The Royal Academy and the Critics', in A. Lyles, ed., Constable: The Great Landscapes, op. cit., pp. 36-7.
C. Rhynne, 'The Remarkable Story of the 'Six-Foot Sketches', in A. Lyles, ed., Constable: The Great Landscapes, op. cit. p. 49.
F. Kelly, 'The Lock', in A. Lyles, ed., Constable: The Great Landscapes, op. cit. p. 155.
London, Royal Academy, 1824, no. 180, as 'A Boat Passing a Lock'.
London, British Institution, Living Artists of the British School, 1825, no. 129, as 'The Lock'.
South Kensington, International Exhibition, 1862, no. 320.
London, Royal Academy, A Loan Exhibition, 1882, no. 181.
London, The Grosvenor Gallery, Loan Exhibition, 1889, no. 85.
London, The New Grosvenor Gallery, Loan Exhibition, 1914, no. 102. Manchester, City Art Gallery, British Art Exhibition, 5 April-26 May 1934, no. 84.
London, Royal Academy, Exhibition of British Art, 1934, no. 386.
London, Tate Gallery, Constable: Paintings, Drawings and Watercolours, 18 February-25 April 1976, no. 227.
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, The Treasure Houses of Great Britain: Five Hundred Years of Private Patronage and Art Collecting, 3 November 1985-16 March 1986, no. 518.
London, Tate Gallery, Constable, 13 June-15 September 1991, no. 158 (catalogue by L. Parris and I. Fleming-Williams).
New York, The Frick Collection and Hartford, Connecticut, Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art, The Spirit of the Place: Masterworks from Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, 17 September 1997-15 March 1998, no. 6 (illustrated on the cover).
Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Naturalezas pintadas de Brueghel a Van Gogh: Pintura naturalista en la colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, 1 October 1999-16 January 2000, no. 44.
La Coruña, Museo de Belas Artes da Coruña, De van Goyen a Constable: Aspetos da tradición do pintoresco na colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, October-November 2000, no. 9.
Bonn, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Landschaften von Brueghel bis Kandinsky: Die Ausstellung zu Ehren des Sammlers Hans Heinrich Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza, 7 September-25 November 2001, no. 43.
Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Constable: Le choix de Lucian Freud, 10 October 2002-13 January 2003, no. 87.
London, Tate Britain; Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; and San Marino, California, The Huntington Library, Constable: The Great Landscapes, 1 June 2006-29 April 2007, no. 41.