John Constable

Dedham Lock


Oil paint on paper on wood
Support: 165 x 254 mm
frame: 345 x 433 x 58 mm
Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900

Display caption

This is one of a small group of sketches of Dedham Lock that Constable made around 1820. Here the view seems to be taken from the upstream end of the lock. No finished painting is known to have resulted from the new studies.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

N01820 Dedham Lock 1820s

Oil on paper, 6 1/4×10 (16.5×25.4) laid on panel.
Inscribed on the paper-edging on the back of the panel: ‘Dedham by Constable RA bought July 1870 - This picture [?lately] belonged to Captain Constable, Son of the painter - then to Hogarth - Vaughan’.
Prov: perhaps acquired privately from Charles Golding Constable by the dealer Hogarth, and sold by him to Henry Vaughan in July 1870 (see above); however, if Hogarth acquired the work at auction, it may have been lot 138 in C.G. Constable's sale at Christie's on 9 May 1870, ‘A Sketch in Suffolk’, bt. Wigzell £8. 8s., assuming that Wigzell quickly disposed of it to Hogarth and he to Vaughan;1 bequeathed by Vaughan to the National Gallery 1900; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1951. Accession N01820.
Lit: Holmes 1902, p.248; Shirley 1937, p.247; Davies 1946, p.32; Chamot 1956, p.260; Beckett 1961, Paintings: Essex (7) No.16; Hoozee 1979, No.258.

The lock gates depicted in No.24 appear to lie at the opposite end of the lock to those shown in No.17 above, i.e. at the south-western or upstream end. The small trees at the left are probably those seen behind the figure operating the gates in No.17. If this is so, the viewpoint adopted for No.24 would be to the right of this figure. An oil sketch in the Johnson Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art presents a similar view (Fig. 1, TG 1976 No.138, H.237).2

Two related Dedham Lock studies are in the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art: Fig.2 (H.257)3 and, less certainly authentic, Fig.3 (H.259).4 Both include a boat similar to the one introduced in the later versions of ‘Dedham Lock and Mill’ (see Fig.4 under No.17 above). Unlike the Philadelphia sketch, No.24 and the two Mellon paintings are probably studio compositions.

Constable seems to have been contemplating a large canvas of the subject but there is no evidence that he ever executed one.

1. An objection here might be that Vaughan was bidding in person at the sale (see No.28 below) and could have bought lot 138 then had he wanted it. Lot 138 appears to be the only work sold at auction by C.G.Constable before July 1870 which could possibly be identified with No.24.

2. Johnson Collection No.863. Oil on canvas, 6 3/4×11 1/2 (15.5×28.6). The tower of Dedham church, barely visible in photographs of the painting, is partly obscured by the left-hand of the two large poplars; the latter are omitted from No.24.

3. Oil on paper laid on board, 4 1/8×6 3/8 (11.5×16.5).

4. Oil on canvas laid on board, 13 1/16×19 1/2 (33.7×49.8).

Published in:
Leslie Parris, The Tate Gallery Constable Collection, London 1981