The Lock, finished in 1824, is the fifth in a celebrated series of six large-scale paintings of the Stour Valley that Constable exhibited between 1819 and 1825. The first of the 'six foot' canvases that define his artistic maturity, these paintings represent a distillation of his profound emotional and artistic response to the scenery of his native Suffolk. Among the series are several of the artist's most renowned works, including The White Horse (1819; New York, The Frick Collection), and The Hay Wain (1822; London, National Gallery). The Lock was bought at the 1824 Royal Academy exhibition by James Morrison. Born the son of an innkeeper, Morrison rose to become one of the wealthiest British merchants of the 19th Century and an outstanding collector of old and modern masters. The Lock remained in the possession of his descendants until acquired by the current owner in 1990.
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. 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.