formerly attributed to John Constable

Dedham Vale with the House Called ‘Dedham Valley’

Formerly attributed to John Constable 1776–1837
Oil paint on paper
Support: 238 x 387 mm
Bequeathed by George Salting 1910

Not on display

Catalogue entry

N02663 Dedham Vale with the house called ‘Dedham Valley’

Oil on paper or board laid down on canvas and panel, 9 3/8×15 1/4 (23.8×38.8).
Prov:...; bequeathed by George Salting to the National Gallery 1910; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1919. Accession N02663.
Exh: Agnew's 1910(256, ‘Landscape’);1 Biennale, Venice 1938(Sala 12, No.5).
Lit: Holmes 1910, p.80; Shirley 1937, p.33; Chamot 1956, p.258; Kitson 1957, p.348 n.49; Beckett 1961, Paintings: Essex(8a) No.24; Hoozee 1979, No.594 (attributed to Lionel Constable).

Although this sketch has been catalogued in the past as an early work by John Constable, it is difficult to point to anything by him which it particularly resembles. No doubt it was given an early date - c. 1801 by Holmes and Shirley, c. 1804 by Beckett and Chamot - because of the extreme simplicity of the composition and the timidity of the handling, but Constable's earliest known landscapes in oil are never quite so bald in design nor so hesitant of touch as this. Some of the colours (the pink on the hills, for example) are also untypical. Dr Hoozee attributes No.44 to Constable's son Lionel, for whom see Nos53–4 below. Examples of Lionel's work which have so far been identified do not seem to the compiler sufficiently close to justify this attribution. However, the discovery of further paintings by Lionel and, perhaps more especially, his brother Alfred may lead to a more convincing attribution of No.44 to a member of the Constable family.

The subject of No.44 was identified in 1963 by Lt.-Col. C. Attfield Brooks, who pointed out that the title by which it had long been known - ‘Dedham Valley’ - was more precise than it might at first seem. The building shown in the centre middle-distance is the property named as ‘Dedham Valley’ on the Chapman and André map of 17772 and the first edition of the one-inch Ordnance Survey of 1805.3 It lay about half a mile south of Flatford and is seen in No.44 from a point on the southern side of the Stour, somewhere in the meadows to the south-west of Flatford bridge. Confirmation of this identification is provided by the relative position of the building to the hanging wood seen in No.44. This wood still exists in the grounds of Lawford Hall, and the small clump of trees on the skyline to the right of it in the sketch is one which grew on a tumulus there. Two of the trees, a group of Scots Pines known as ‘The Seven Sisters’, survived until at least 1940.4 The hanging wood and the adjacent clump appear in several of John Constable's works, including two oil sketches in the V.&A. (R.100 and 329, H.126 and 128).

1. Sir Charles Holmes' annotated copy of the catalogue (National Gallery Library) identifies item 256 as ‘Dedham Valley’, as does his 1910 Burlington Magazine article.

2. John Chapman and Peter André, A Map of the County of Essex from an Actual Survey, 1777. The Essex Record Office has published a reprint of the map.

3. A reprint of the sheets covering the Stour valley is given in A.J.R. Waller, The Suffolk Stour, Ipswich 1957.

4. Lt.-Col. Brooks has a postcard showing the clump at this date. The card is based on a photograph taken by F.A. Girling on 31 December 1940.

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