John Constable RA, Flatford Lock, A Path by a River

Flatford Lock, A Path by a River, ca. 1810-1812

John Constable RA (1776 - 1837)

RA Collection: Art

Constable was endlessly inspired by his 'all that lies on the banks of the River Stour', and here depicted the river’s Flatford Lock with its distinctive cross-beams. He painted the sky very rapidly with billowing clouds and racing birds, catching the mood of a blustery day.

The River Stour was a significant source of inspiration for Constable. He said 'Painting is another word for feeling. I associate my "careless boyhood" to all that lies on the banks of the Stour. They made me a painter (& I am gratefull [sic]) that is I had often thought of pictures of them before I had even touched a pencil.' (23 October 1821; in Beckett, VI, p.78)

This view of Flatford Lock was from the millpool end. In this rapid sketch buildings are only just visible but the cross-beams of Flatford Lock are seen along the side of the river and the level of the water in the distance is at the higher level of the Lock. White water, presumably escaping from the lock, is also represented by a strong white highlight. The sky is painted very sketchily and the light brown priming colour is clearly noticeable. The clouds are touched with pink is some areas with more impasto which might mean the colour was created by painting wet-in-wet rather than mixed on the palette.

Further Reading

Anne Gray and John Gage, Constable: Impressions of Land, Sea and Sky, exh. cat., National Gallery of Australia, 2006, p.112

Graham Reynolds, The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, New Haven and London, 1996, Text Vol., pp. 167-168, Plates Vol. pl. 915

R.B. Beckett, John Constable's Correspondence VI, The Fishers Vol VI, IpswIch, Suffolk, 1968

Object details

Flatford Lock, A Path by a River
John Constable RA (1776 - 1837)
ca. 1810-1812
Object type
Oil on canvas on board

187 mm x 244 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Given by Isabel Constable 1888
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