Historical Portraits Picture Archive

One of the artistís sons, traditionally identified as John Charles Constable (1817-41) 

John Constable RA (1776-1837)

One of the artistís sons, traditionally identified as John Charles Constable (1817-41), John Constable
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Oil on canvas laid onto board
19th Century
15 1/8 x 12 in (38.4 x 30.5 cm)
 
Provenance:
By descent to Hugh G. Constable, the artist's grandson; Leggatt Brothers, London, by 1899; Ronald Brymer Beckett; Edmund Peel; Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena; Sothebyís, London, 27 June 1973, lot 24 (£2,000); Private collection; Sotheby's, London, 8 April 1992, lot 59; Private collection, until 2015
Literature:
John Constable's Correspondence, ed. R.B. Beckett, 1967, V, pl. 6 R. Hoozee, Opera Completa di John Constable, 1979, no. 553 G. Reynolds, The Later Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, 1984, text, p. 282, no. 35.39; plates vol. pl. 1047
Exhibited:
Manchester, Manchester City Art Gallery, John Constable, 1956, no. 67
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The subject of this sensitive portrait has traditionally been identified as Constableís eldest son John Charles Constable and is recorded as such in Graham Reynoldsís seminal monograph "The Later Paintings and Drawings of John Constable".(1) Reynolds, however, also points out the striking similarity between this subject and Constableís second son Charles Golding Constable, an observation that is supported by comparison with a small portrait of Charles Golding in a private collection.(2)

Reynolds dates this portrait to 1835 and it is thus amongst some of the last portraits Constable painted of his family. Constable was a very proud father and clearly adored John Charles, whom he referred to as Ďour darling Duckí in correspondence with his wife Maria.(3) This deep affection can be easily interpreted in this work with the transitory characteristics of youth echoed in the sketchy, unfinished appearance. At some point in the past however, this unfinished appearance was clearly considered distracting, and areas of thinness were overpainted in an attempt to add cohesion to a naturally spontaneous portrait.

Recent x-ray analysis has revealed that Constable sketched this portrait over the top of another likeness of a woman beneath. The identity of the woman, who was shown with hanging ringlets of hair, is not known and this study does not appear to relate to any recorded portrait by the artist. Constable is known to have been quite economical with his painting supports, and would re-use canvasses, sometimes more than once, and at times use both sides of a panel support.

(1) G. Reynolds, The Later Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, 1984, text, p. 282, no. 35.39
(2) Ibid
(3) M. Gayford and A. Lyles, Constable Portraits (London, 2009), p.136
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