John Constable

View at Epsom


Not on display

John Constable 1776–1837
Oil paint on board
Support: 298 × 359 mm
frame: 362 × 421 × 43 mm
Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900

Display caption

Following his outdoor sketching campaign in Suffolk in 1802, Constable did not return to making oil studies from nature in earnest until around 1808. This sketch dates from the following year, and is notable for its smooth paintwork and strong tonal contrasts. The rectangular format of the study, together with its open vista and low horizon, allows him to devote a much larger area than usual to the representation of the sky. Constable paid several visits to Epsom between 1806 and 1812 to see his aunt and uncle, Mary and James Gubbins.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

N01818 View at Epsom Dated June 1809

Oil, formerly on board but marouflaged onto synthetic panel 1970, 11 3/4×14 1/8 (29.9×35.9). Formerly inscribed by the artist on verso ‘Epsom June. 1809’ in pencil and ‘Epsom. June. 1809 -’ in ink (inscriptions removed during restoration: the second now separately preserved).

Prov: Lionel Constable, sold Christie's 14 June 1873 (119, ‘Epsom- outdoor sketch’), bt. Henry Vaughan £24. 13s. 6d. (the sale stencil and a cutting from the sale catalogue were on the old backing board); bequeathed by Vaughan to the National Gallery 1900; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1919. Accession N01818.
Exh: Twee Eeumen Engelsche Kunst, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 1936(16); Tate Gallery 1937(p.16, No.26); La Peinture Anglaise, Louvre, Paris 1938(14); Tate Gallery 1976(87).
Lit: Holmes 1902, p.241; Shirley 1937, pp.28, 36; Chamot 1956, p.260; Kitson 1957, p.348, n.49; Beckett 1961, Paintings: Surrey (2) No.6; R.B.Beckett, ‘Constable at Epsom’, Apollo, LXXXI, 1965, p.191; H.L.Lehmann, ‘John Constable at Epsom’, Surrey Archaeological Society Bulletin, No.153, Jan.1979, pp.5–6; Hoozee 1979, No.65.

About 1770 Mary Watts, younger sister of Constable's mother, married a successful London surveyor, James Gubbins, who eventually retired to a house at Epsom, Surrey. The house in question has recently been identified by Dr H.L.Lehmann as The Hylands, now called Hylands House, 73 Dorking Road. Gubbins first appears as its occupier in the land tax returns for 1804.

Constable paid several visits to his uncle and aunt at Epsom, the first recorded one being in 1806, and others following in 1809, 1810, 1811 and 1812. As the inscription indicates, No.4 was made on his visit in June 1809. Constable had evidently returned to London by 18 June, when his mother wrote to say that she was glad ‘to hear you had so Pleasant & benificial a Visit to kind Friends at Epsom’ (JCC I, p.31).

An oil study of the Gubbins’ house (Fig.1, Private Collection, TG 1976 No.44, H.62)1 probably dates from one of Constable's early visits. A few Epsom drawings and watercolours of the period survive,2 as do Constable's portraits of his cousins Ann and Richard Gubbins.3 An oil sketch known as ‘Epsom Downs’4 has been described as an earlier version of No.4, but it is not obvious that it represents the same view or, even, that it is by the same hand.

1. Oil on panel, 11 13/16×14 15/16 (30×38).

2. For example: Coll. Mr and Mrs Tom Girtin (Beckett, op. cit., 1965, Fig.1; TG 1976 No.68); V.& A. (R.95; Beckett, op.cit., 1965, Fig.4); Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery (exh. there: John Constable Drawings & Sketches, 1961, No.10; Beckett, op. cit., 1965, Fig.3); Coll. Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon (in an extra-illustrated copy of Leslie 1843, another page of which was TG 1976 No.9); Christie's, 19 June 1979 (127), and Sotheby's, 13 Nov. 1980 (98).

3. Private Collection; Beckett, op. cit., 1965, Figs. 5–6, H.63–4.

4. Beckett, op.cit., 1965, Fig.7; repr. in colour in catalogue of A Selection of Paintings...arranged by Richard Nathanson, H. Blairman & Sons 1974.

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

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