John Constable, R.A. (East Bergholt, Suffolk 1776-1837 London)
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF WILLIAM ERNEST DUNCOMBE, 1ST EARL OF FEVERSHAM (LOTS 210-212) The three drawings offered here combine to encapsulate John Constable’s breadth of style and virtuosity as a draughtsman and are notable for their extraordinary state of preservation. The soft, restricted colours which Constable favoured at the time he executed the View of East Bergholt; the stronger palette and mixed media of the later Brighton study (lot 211); and the vibrancy of the pencil in the view of Salisbury Cathedral (lot 212) have all survived in remarkable condition, too often lost over time. Their survival in such a condition is due primarily to the fact that they have only been in two collections: the artist’s descendants and then since 1887, in the same family collection. They formed part of Charles Golding Constable’s collection and on his death he requested that this be divided by his trustees for his children. He apparently intended to write on the back of each work. It seems this was never done and for reasons which remain unclear, perhaps confusion as to who should get what, the will was contested by the children’s grandfather on their behalf. The High Court found in favour of the defendants, but because the children were all minors, it was decided that the pictures should remain together for the time being and placed on loan at the South Kensington Museum, now the Victoria and Albert Museum. They remained at the Museum until 1883, when it seems that the loan was withdrawn. This was apparently due to Mrs Constable feeling that certain promises had not been met: the works were not hung in a separate room, other works were included in the hang, which she believed to be ‘shams’ and a separate catalogue had not been produced. Whether these undertakings had ever been promised is uncertain, Mrs Constable was by all accounts not an easy woman to deal with. The works were subsequently transferred to the Edinburgh Museum of Science and Art, where they remained until 1887, when they were brought to London and sold at Christie’s. The sale was titled 'The Property of the late Captain Constable' with the notice that the sale was 'pursuant to an Order of the High Court of Justice made in an action Re CONSTABLE CONSTABLE V BLUNDELL, 1880, C. 1621 with the approbation of Mr Justice Chitty.' These three works were all purchased at that sale by Shepherd Brothers, who sold them to William Ernest Duncombe, 1st Earl Feversham of Ryedale and have remained with the family. Duncombe was born on 28 January 1829 and died just short of his 86th birthday on 13 January 1915. He was the son of William Duncombe, 2nd Baron Feversham of Duncombe Park, Yorkshire, and Lady Louisa Stewart. He married Mabel Violet Graham on 7 August 1851 and they had seven children. He was M.P. for East Retford between 1852-7 and M.P. for North Riding between 1859-67 and also served as Deputy Lieutenant and as a Justice of the Peace. He was an active member of the Royal Agricultural Society and was appointed its President in 1892. He succeeded to the title of 3rd Baron Feversham of Duncombe on 11 February 1867 and was created 1st Earl of Feversham of Ryedale and 1st Viscount Helmsley on 25 July 1868. We are grateful to Anne Lyles for her help with these drawings.
John Constable, R.A. (East Bergholt, Suffolk 1776-1837 London)

St Mary's Church, East Bergholt from the grounds of West Lodge

John Constable, R.A. (East Bergholt, Suffolk 1776-1837 London)
St Mary's Church, East Bergholt from the grounds of West Lodge
pencil and watercolour
12½ x 9 in. (31.7 x 22.8 cm.)
Charles Golding Constable.
Mrs A. M. Constable.
Captain Constable (†); Christie’s, London, 11 July 1887, lot 44 (6 gns to Shepherd Brothers) where purchased by
Lord Feversham, and by descent to the present owner.
G. Reynolds, The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, London, 1996, p. 64, 05.35, pl. 274.
Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, on loan, 2012-13.

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Lot Essay

Constable rarely undertook sketching tours in the way other artists did, in search of new inspiration, preferring almost exclusively to paint landscapes with which he had a deep personal bond. As a result the majority of his work depicts his native East Anglia, especially the landscape around the village of his birth, East Bergholt, in Suffolk; Hampstead, where he and his family began to spend time from 1819; Salisbury and its surroundings, where he was a frequent visitor, staying with his friend John Fisher; and Brighton, where he and his family spent prolonged periods between 1824 and 1828.

Constable executed numerous studies, sketches and finished paintings of the Church of St Mary’s, East Bergholt. His father served as churchwarden for thirteen years and his parents were later buried in the churchyard along with other Constable relations. It has been suggested that Constable also liked to sketch around the church in the hope of seeing his future wife, Maria Bicknell, whose grandfather was Rector of East Bergholt.

West Lodge, the home of Mrs Sarah Roberts, was down the road from Constable’s family home of East Bergholt House. Philip and Sarah Roberts probably moved to West Lodge in 1756; Philip died in 1778, but his wife continued to live there until her death over 30 years later, in December 1811. She appears to have been held in high regard by the whole community and was friends with the Constable family and with the young artist in particular. She allowed him access to her grounds so that he could explore the scenery from her garden. Facing west with views across the meadows to the Stour Valley, it furthermore afforded him the opportunity to study sunsets, something which he was unable to do from his parents' house. Constable was possibly painting in the garden of West Lodge as early as 1799 and certainly from 1802, although the most concentrated period of activity appears to be 1811-12, just before and after Mrs Roberts' death.

The present watercolour was most likely executed in about 1805-6. The soft colours and restricted palette, which have survived in remarkable condition, were characteristic of Constable’s work at this time, as can be seen in other watercolours of the period, such as in Derwentwater (Private Collection, reproduced in I. Fleming Williams, Constable and his Drawings, London, 1990, p. 74, pl. 5), which Constable made during his 1806 tour of the Lake District (fig. 1).

At East Bergholt, as at Salisbury, Constable explored the buildings in detail, through a series of paintings and drawings of small aspects of the architecture and their surroundings. The device of depicting even just a tiny edge of a building to locate a scene, used to such effect in the present work, was something that was used by the artist throughout his career. The interplay of trees and foliage and their twisting nature in contrast to the rigid geometry of the architecture at the extreme edge of the sheet, clearly appealed to the artist. Furthermore, the deliberate inclusion of part of West Lodge must in part have been in recognition of the artist’s friendship with Mrs Roberts.

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