Art/ Collection/ Art Object


John Constable (British, East Bergholt 1776–1837 Hampstead)
ca. 1810–11
Oil on canvas
11 1/8 x 14 1/4 in. (28.3 x 36.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Charles B. Curtis Fund, 1926
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 808
This sketch was made in the Suffolk countryside, near the home of Constable’s aunt. The view offers a glimpse of the quaint hamlet of Stoke and its church of Saint Mary the Virgin. In related versions of the scene (Tate Britain, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London), the figure standing in deep shadow on the roadway is replaced by a woman in white carrying a brightly colored bundle.

In the summer of 1810, Constable painted an altarpiece for his aunt Martha Smith's local church at Nayland, a village on the Stour River several miles west of Constable's home in East Bergholt. In connection with that commission, or in the course of visiting his aunt, he would have passed by the neighboring village of Stoke-by-Nayland, with its Perpendicular church of Saint Mary the Virgin. A sketchbook (Musée du Louvre, Paris) that Constable used in Suffolk and Essex between about July 1810 and August 1811 contains three drawings relating to the present oil sketch. A fourth, a much larger and more literal study of the landscape, is mounted in the Exeter album (Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery, Exeter). Evidently earlier in style, it was assigned by Graham Reynolds (1996) to 1805.

Two variants are in London: one, belonging to the Tate (NO1819), is a little less blond and includes a woman balancing a bundle on her head; the other, on paper, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, also has the woman with the bundle but is dark in overall tone. The former, like the present work, dates to 1810 or 1811; the latter may have been made in 1829–30 in preparation for Various Subjects of Landscape, Characteristic of English Scenery, mezzotints after some of Constable's most important paintings that were engraved under his supervision by David Lucas. A proof by Lucas, extensively retouched by Constable, is in The Met’s collection (27.4.18; see Additional Images, fig. 1). In 1836 Constable took up the view again in a full-scale oil sketch now in the Art Institute of Chicago.

As Graham Reynolds pointed out (1983), Constable took the canvas off the original stretcher and folded it out at the left, widening it by slightly more than an inch. Four original tack holes are visible, and a slight change in the color of the ground marks what had at first been the edge of the paint surface. Although flattened in an old relining, the picture is otherwise in good state, boldly painted, with highlights of blue and white and dense, glossy black strokes for the trunks and thicker branches of the trees and for a figure standing in deep shadow in the roadway. This small picture is not a rough sketch after nature but a highly cogitated work of art.

[2012; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
[Sedelmeyer, Paris]; Aureliano de Beruete, Madrid; [Dario de Regoyos, 1926; sold to MMA]
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Paintings, Drawings and Prints by J. M. W. Turner, John Constable, R. P. Bonington," March 21–April 28, 1946, no. 146.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Painter's Light," October 5–November 10, 1971, no. 27.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Constable's England," April 16–September 4, 1983, no. 59.

New York. Salander-O'Reilly Galleries. "John Constable, R.A. (1776–1837): Paintings, Drawings, Watercolors, Mezzotints," May 4–June 25, 1988, no. 10 (as Stoke-by-Nayland from the South).

New York. Salander-O'Reilly Galleries. "John Constable & David Lucas," May 6–June 5, 1993, no. 79.

New York. Salander-O'Reilly Galleries. "Constable's Oil Sketches, 1809–29: The Maria Bicknell Years," April 3–June 16, 2007, no. 5.

C. H. Collins Baker. British Painting. London, 1933, p. 277, as Stoke by Nayland.

Carlos Peacock. John Constable: the Man and his Work. Greenwich, Conn., 1965, pl. 33.

Robert Hoozee. L'opera completa di Constable. Milan, 1979, p. 100, no. 140, ill., dates the picture about 1811, associating it with the oil sketches in the Tate and the Victoria and Albert.

Leslie Parris. The Tate Gallery Constable Collection: A Catalogue. London, 1981, pp. 60, 64 n. 4, fig. 6, gives a full account of this and the related sketches, the drawings, principally in the Louvre, and the painting in Chicago.

Graham Reynolds. Constable's England. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1983, pp. 24, 164–66, no. 59, ill. (color), dates it 1810, describes the circumstances under which it was probably painted.

Malcolm Cormack. Constable. Cambridge, 1986, p. 68, pl. 62, dates it about 1810 and finds the handling loose, rather than, as in the 1811 Flatford sketches, nervous and broken.

Leslie Parris. John Constable & David Lucas. Exh. cat., Salander-O'Reilly Galleries. New York, 1993, pp. 94–95, no. 79, ill. (color), reproduces a related mezzotint proof [no. 80] of the scene by David Lucas which Constable had marked to "show that he wanted a rainbow added over the church tower [and] more lights in the trees at the right".

Graham Reynolds. The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable. New Haven, 1996, vol. 1, p. 163, no. 11.45; vol. 2, colorpl. 928.

Anne Lyles in Constable's Oil Sketches, 1809–29: The Maria Bicknell Years. Ed. Hermine Chivian-Cobb. Exh. cat., Salander-O'Reilly Galleries. New York, 2007, pp. 45–46, 149, no. 5, ill. (color), dates it 1811; calls Constable's sketches from this period, including this picture, "private works" not intended for exhibition as well as "a potential repertoire of motifs for further consultation or elaboration in the studio".

Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 237–39, no. 115, ill. (color).

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