John Constable

View towards Stratford St Mary Church


Not on display

John Constable 1776–1837
Watercolour and graphite on paper
Support: 219 × 152 mm
Presented by the Art Fund 1916

Catalogue entry

N03155 View towards Stratford St Mary Church Circa 1805

Watercolour and traces of pencil, 8 9/16×6 (21.8×15.2). Inscribed: until 1977 the watercolour was stuck down on a mount, on the back of which was inscribed ‘John Constable, R.A., 1776–1837. On the back is written in pencil, but partly erased:- “The Rt Honble Lady Louisa Manners [J] Hopp[ner] Esqr”(?) apparently part of a Memorandum, in Constable's hand.’ A further inscription in a different hand read ‘From the collection of Herbert P.Horne who wrote the note above.’ The brackets and parentheses in the first note are Horne's. When the watercolour was lifted from the mount in 1977, no trace of Constable's inscription could be found.

Prov: ...; sold by Herbert Horne to Edward Marsh, perhaps in 1904,1 and presented by Marsh to the Red Cross Sale, Christie's 15 April 1916 (1272, with a Girtin), bt. R.B.Ross; purchased with other drawings by the National Art-Collections Fund, through the generosity of Miss Juliet Reckitt, and presented to the Tate Gallery 1916. Accession No. 3155.
Exh: Tate Gallery 1937 (p.23, No.I); Tate Gallery 1971 (72).

This watercolour has recently been called ‘View towards Dedham Church’ but the building in question now seems more likely to be Stratford St Mary church, seen from more or less the same angle as in the two versions of ‘Landscape: Ploughing scene in Suffolk (A Summerland)’, the first of which was exhibited in 1814 (Fig. 1, Private Collection, TG 1976 No.123, H.193)2. The ‘Summerland’ composition presents a view westward up the Stour valley from the outskirts of Old Hall, East Bergholt. The precise viewpoint in No.2 has not been determined.

No.2 belongs with a group of Stour valley watercolours which can be dated circa 1805 by comparison with two dated examples of that year (see TG 1976 Nos 45–50). In handling and colour it is especially close to the ‘Dedham Vale from near East Bergholt’ in the National Gallery of Ireland (Fig.2, TG 1976 No.50; repr. in colour, Fleming-Williams 1976, Pl.6).3

The inscription recorded by Horne (see above) would seem to refer to Constable's work for the Dysart family. Introduced to the 6th Earl of Dysart in 1807, Constable made copies after family portraits by Reynolds and Hoppner and painted some original portraits. In 1812 he copied Hoppner's portrait of Lady Heathcote as Hebe (see JCC II, p.64) and did some work on Hoppner's copy of Reynolds' portrait of Lady Heathcote's mother, Lady Louisa Manners (ibid., pp.70,74). He seems to have copied Hoppner's own portrait of Lady Louisa, presumably the one referred to on the back of No.2, about the same time: in 1813 portraits by him of Lady Louisa Manners and Lady Heathcote were reported to be in place at the latter's house (ibid., p.108). It is not clear why Constable should have chosen to make a note about the Hoppner on the back of No.2.

1. See Collobi, pp.8–12.

2. Oil on canvas, 20 1/4×30 1/4 (51.4×76.8).

3. Pencil and watercolour, 7 7/8×11 3/4 (20×29.9).

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


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