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A Barn at the Edge of a Wood, East Bergholt

John Constable (1776-1837)


Dated 'June 22 1802'


6 x 10 ¼ inches

Dunthorne Gallery, 1936;
Dr H A C Gregory, 1949

G Reynolds, The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, New Haven, CT: The Yale University Press, 1996

'Chris Beetles Summer Show 2024', Chris Beetles Gallery, London, June-September 2024, no 14

The present drawing, previously thought to be lost, is highly likely to be the same drawing that was exhibited as A Barn and Trees in the exhibition, ‘Drawings by John Constable R.A.’ at the Dunthorne Gallery in Vigo Street, London, in June 1936. It was subsequently sold as part of the collection of a Dr H A C Gregory at Sotheby’s on 20 July 1949. The drawing was referenced in Graham Reynolds’ The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable (1996) as ‘present whereabouts unknown’.

John Constable spent much of the summer of 1802 in East Bergholt, the place of his birth, accompanied by his friend and patron, Dr John Fisher, where it is likely this drawing was produced. The summer of 1802 marked a considerable moment in Constable’s career, when he refused the stability of a post as drawing master at a military academy in order to dedicate himself to landscape painting and the study of nature. In a letter to Robert Dunthorne dated 29 May 1802, Constable wrote:

‘For these few weeks past, I believe I have thought more seriously of my profession than at any other time of my life; of that which is the surest way to excellence. I am just returned from a visit to Sir George Beaumont’s pictures with a deep conviction of the truth of Sir Joshua Reynold’s observation, that “there is no easy way of becoming a good painter.” For the last two years I have been running after pictures, and seeking the truth at second hand. I have not endeavoured to represent nature with the same elevation of mind with which I set out, but have rather tried to make my performances look like the work of other men. I am come to a determination to make no idle visits this summer, nor to give up my time to commonplace people. I shall return to Bergholt, where I shall endeavour to get a pure and unaffected manner of representing the scenes that employ me. There is little or nothing in the exhibition worth looking up to.
There is room enough for a natural painter. The great vice of the present day is bravura, an attempt to do something beyond the truth. Fashion always had, and will have, its day; but truth in all things only will last, and can only have just claims on posterity. I have reaped considerable benefit from exhibiting. It shows me where I am, and in fact tells me what nothing else could.’

(C R Leslie RA,
Life and Letters of John Constable RA, London: Chapman and Hall, 1896, page 17).

This authenticity of this artwork has been verified by Anne Lyles, former curator of 18th and 19th Century British Art at the Tate and leading expert on the work of John Constable.