John Constable's 'The Lock' sells for £9.1m

The Lock, one of the most famous paintings by John Constable has been sold at auction for £9.1 million.
The piece led a London Evening auction at Sotheby’s as part of its Old Master and British paintings, making its first appearance on the market for 160 years, having been sold for £860 by an English family in 1855.

Capturing the beauty of the countryside

The iconic landscape painting depicts a countryside scene in Suffolk believed to be derived from Constable’s childhood, and is widely regarded as being a key work when it comes to exhibiting the transient beauty of the traditional English country life.
According to the Daily Telegraph, David Moore-Gwyn, the British paintings consultant to Sotheby’s, said before the auction: “For many people, Constable captures, like no other artist, the essence and beauty of the English countryside.
“This breath-taking painting belongs, together with The Hay Wain, to the small group of pictures that for many define Constable’s career.”
“This is quite simply one of the most loved and celebrated works in the history of British art and also one of a very small handful of great Constables still in private hands.”
Suffolk was not only Constable’s birthplace, but was also a source of huge inspiration for his works, the landscapes of Dedham Vale, which surrounded his home, a particularly strong influence on what have widely become known as some of the finest pieces of landscape art in Britain.
That’s not to say the works were in any way a platform upon which he could simply inflate his ego. Indeed, works like The Lock have become so sought after due to the fact that they capture the very essence of art, which is largely based on love.
Constable’s love for his home is unquestionable and so it is unsurprising to see it become such a strong muse for his creativity.
The intensity of his affection was made clear in a letter written to his friend John Fisher in 1821, where he said: “I should paint my own places best…painting is but another word for feeling”.

Mind over money

Despite his works being highly regarded by many experts and punters alike, Constable is a classic example of an artist that found appreciation beyond his own time.
Having created some of the most valuable works in Britain, Constable was never financially successful and did not become a member of the establishment until he was elected to the Royal Academy at the age of 52.
However, such a lack of measurable success did not hamper his love of landscapes, with The Lock arguably one of his most treasured.
Painted on oil canvas, the picture depicts a working rural scene dominated by a struggling attempting to open a canal gate at Dedham Lock near Flatford Mill in Suffolk as he looks to allow a lighter barge to pass through the River Stour.
When he painted this relatively simple scene, he surely had no idea it would one day become such a treasured piece of England’s artistic identity.