Rare Constable Sketch Offering Marks Christie’s 250th Anniversary Sale

Estimate puts sketch in record auction territory.

John Constable, View on the River Stour near Dedham (circa 1821–22). Courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd.

As part of its 250th anniversary celebration, Christie’s is offering a rare, full-scale sketch by master British artist John Constable, View on the Stour near Dedham (circa 1821–22) at its “Defining British Art” sale in London on June 30. The unpublished estimate is “in the region” of £12 million–16 million ($17.8 million–23 million).

According to a statement from Christie’s, “the work, the last great six-footer sketch in private hands, clearly illustrates why Constable was considered the father of British Modernism and why the French painters, particularly the Impressionists, revered Constable as an instinctive painter of nature and the elements.”

It will be offered alongside other gems by artists including Joshua Reynolds, Frederic Leighton, Laurence Stephen Lowry, Francis Bacon, and Lucian Freud.

John Constable, <em> The Lock</em> (1824). Courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd.

John Constable,
The Lock
(1824). Courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd.

The work was bought privately more than two decades ago, having last appeared on the market at Christie’s in 1883. If it meets expectations, it will rank among the most expensive Constable works sold at auction.

Christie’s holds the record for a work by Constable, having sold The Lock (1837) for £22 million ($35 million) in July 2012 in London. The same work (which also ranks as the second most expensive work by the artist) had been sold at Sotheby’s London in November 1990, for $21 million (£10.8 million), according to the artnet Price Database.

John Constable Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows. Courtesy Sotheby's.

John Constable Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

Another Constable that Christie’s handled in the past few years made headlines for the opposite reason, when it was sold as the work of a “follower of John Constable,” for a mere $5,212 (£3,500) in London in July 2013 . The eagle-eyed buyer who scooped it up had it cleaned and then successfully went about having it authenticated as a work by the master himself.

Less than two years later, it was consigned to Sotheby’s New York Old Master sale in January 2015, where it sold for $5.2 million against an estimate of $2 million–3 million.

Going even further back in its provenance, according to the artnet Price Database, in May of 1837, at what is listed as “possibly the artist’s sale,” the work was sold for £6.10.

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