John Constable

The Grove, Hampstead


Not on display

John Constable 1776–1837
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 356 × 302 mm
frame: 550 × 495 × 65 mm
Presented by Miss Isabel Constable 1888

Display caption

The house known as ‘The Grove’ was occupied in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by Fountain North, a former lieutenant in the navy. North made alterations to the building so that its flat roof resembled the quarter-deck of a man-of-war; from here he is said to have fired a cannon on special occasions. By the time Constable came to stay regularly at Hampstead in the 1820s, the main relics of this eccentric arrangement seem to have been the railings round the edges of the roof.

Gallery label, May 2007

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Catalogue entry

N01246 Admiral's House, Hampstead Circa 1820–25

Oil on canvas, laid on board, 14×11 7/8 (35.6×30.2).
Inscribed on a label on the stretcher: ‘Lionel 1848.’, i.e. the picture belonged to Lionel Constable that year.

Prov: Lionel Constable (see above); presented by his sister Isabel Constable to the National Gallery 1888; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1962. Accession N01246.
Exh: International Exhibition, London 1874(143); R.A., Old Masters, 1878(238); Tate Gallery 1937(p.37, No.89); Comparisons, Art Gallery of Toronto [now Ontario] 1957(2); Tate Gallery 1976(206).
Lit: Holmes 1902, pp.124, 250; Shirley 1937, pp.285, 294; Davies 1946, p.27, 1959, p.17; Beckett 1961, Paintings: Middlesex B (3) No.8; Hoozee 1979, No.390.

At some time known as The Grove, Admiral's House takes its present name from Admiral Matthew Barton (?1715–95), who retired there towards the end of the eighteenth century. Barton rigged out the roof of the building in nautical style: ‘from this elevated position’, wrote T.J. Barratt in 1912, ‘the old sailor was accustomed, at times when naval victories were being celebrated, to fire salutes from a couple of cannon he had mounted there, on what he called his quarter-deck’ (The Annals of Hampstead, 1912, 11, pp.66–7). Barton's roof-line appears to have been even more eccentric than it is today, judging from a print of 1797 reproduced by Barratt (p.65). In No.23 the building is seen from the south. The pond, which no longer exists, was known as Clock House Pond or Crockett's Pond (Barratt, op. cit., p.278).

Admiral's House is seen from a different angle in an oil sketch in the V.&A. (Fig. 1, R.402, H.360)1 and a painting derived from it in the Nationalgalerie, Berlin (Fig.2, H.391).2 John Baskett has suggested that the former was made from a window of No.2 Lower Terrace, which Constable rented in the summers of 1821 and 1822 and which lies just to the west of Admiral's House (Constable's Oil Sketches, 1966, p.58). An oil sketch belonging to the Royal Academy (TG 1976 No.205, H.333), dated 29 July 1822, may be a more distant view of the house.

Constable exhibited a painting entitled ‘A romantic house at Hampstead’ at the R.A. in 1832. While it may well have shown Admiral's House, it is unlikely to have been No.23, as has sometimes been supposed - this looks like a product of Constable's early years at Hampstead.

1. Oil on paper, laid on canvas, 9 1/2×11 15/16 (24.5×29.2).

2. Oil on canvas, 23 9/16×19 5/16 (60×50).

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

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