Posted: 21 June 2012 by Sarah Greenberg, RA Magazine Editor
John Constable’s masterpiece ‘The Lock’ (1824) from the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection in Madrid is a top lot of Christie’s Old Master sale on 3 July. In this stunning painting, along with his other ‘six-footers’, Constable looked at the landscape from the ground up, creating a new point of view. But I was stopped in my tracks by Constable’s smaller, sublime sky study Storm Clouds over Hampstead – so spontaneous and full of the open-air spirit of the artist that I invited the painter Mali Morris RA to look at it with me.
John Constable RA, 'The Lock'. oil on canvas. 56 x 47.1/2 in. (142.2 x 120.7 cm.) in the original gilt plaster and carved wood frame. Estimate: £20,000,000 – 25,000,000. Old Master & British Paintings Evening Auction. Christie’s London. 3 July 2012. Sale 5602.
John Constable RA, 'Storm clouds over Hampstead'. Oil on millboard. 16 x 27.1/4 in. (40.6 x 69.2 cm.) Lot 91. Estimate £150,000 – 200,000. Andrew Wyld: Connoisseur Dealer. London, King Street. 10 July 2012. Sale 6574.
First exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1824, 'The Lock' is one of Constable's monumental 'six-footer' canvases, made in his studio from a full-scale oil sketch that he painted in the open air to capture what he called a 'natural painture', the authentic feeling of nature and the elements. Constable painted five of these massive paintings of his native Stour Valley landscape and exhibited them at the RA between 1819-1825. Their grand scale was crucial - he wanted his work to compete on the RA's walls with that of artists such as Turner to gain commercial and critical success. 'The Lock' sold on the first day of the Summer Exhibition to the maverick self-made businessman James Morrison, who built a major collection of Old Masters and British art. It remained in the Morrison family until 1990, when it was sold for £10,780,000 to the current owner, Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. It has been on loan to the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection in Madrid, since 1992. The RA owns a smaller version of this picture from 1826.
Click below to listen to Sarah Greenberg discussing 'The Lock' with John Stainton, Christie's International director of Old Masters and British paintings :
Click below to listen to Sarah Greenberg in conversation with the painter Mali Morris RA in front of Constable's oil sketch Storm Clouds over Hampstead:
Editor's pick from Christie's and Sotheby's Old Master sales