Catalogue entry

John Constable 1776-1837

T03900 Maria Bicknell c.1805-9

Pencil on cream wove paper 488 x 348 (19 3/16 x 13 11/16)
Inscribed in a later hand 'Mrs. J.C' b.r.
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1984
Prov: As for T03899
Exh: John Constable, R.A., Colehester Public Library 1950-1 (2, repr.); The Constable Family - Five Generations, Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich, June-Sept. 1954 (4), South London Art Gallery, Camberwell, Oct-Nov. 1954 (25) and subsequent tour (see T03899); First Loan Exhibition, The Minories, Colehester, May-June 1958 (22); John Constable: The Natural Painter, Auckland City Art Gallery, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Sept. 1973-Jan. 1974 (46, repr.); on loan to Tate Gallery 1975-84

According to C.R. Leslie, Constable first met his future wife, Maria Bicknell (1788-1828), in 1800 when she was staying with her grandfather the Revd Dr Rhudde at East Bergholt rectory (Memoirs of the Life of John Constable, 1843, p.12, ed. J. Mayne, 1951, p.25). By 1809 a close attachment existed, at least on Constable's side. In February 1816 he recalled that it had been seven years since he avowed his love for her (R.B. Beckett, ed., John Constable's Correspondence, II, Ipswich 1964, p.179). Judging by Maria's apparent age (surely no more than twenty-one), this drawing was made no later than 1809 and quite possibly a few years before that.

Two other portraits of Maria are in the Tate Gallery: the famous oil of 1816, painted by Constable a few months before their marriage, and T03903, which shows her with two of her children. An unfinished oil painting of Maria with three of her children is still in the Constable family collection (Graham Reynolds, The Later Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, New Haven and London 1984, no.22.67, pl.390 in col.), as is a drawing thought to show her in the last years of her life (repr. Freda Constable, John Constable, Lavenham 1975, p.109). Drawings of Maria made in 1819 and c.1820 are also known (Reynolds 1984, nos. 19.34, 20.87; see also 18.40, 19.20, 24.57 for drawings possibly of her).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, p.18