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Study of ash trees

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Suffolk, England (drawn)

  • Date:

    1817 (drawn)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Constable, John RA, born 1776 - died 1837 (drawn by)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pencil and paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Isabel Constable, daughter of the artist

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case PD, shelf 327

Constable usually made studies directly from nature for his large oil paintings, and this study of ash trees may be an example of his working method: the foremost tree, with a dead branch hanging against its trunk, appears to be the same as that in the right foreground of a painting owned by Tate Britain, The Valley Farm. However, the sketch's resemblance to studies of ash trees at Hampstead may suggest that this is an independent drawing, done after the completion of the painting.

Physical description

Pencil drawing of two ash trees with dramatically shadowed trunks and sunlit crowns. The tree in the foreground has a dead branch hanging down two-thirds of the way up the trunk.

Place of Origin

Suffolk, England (drawn)


1817 (drawn)


Constable, John RA, born 1776 - died 1837 (drawn by)

Materials and Techniques

Pencil and paper

Marks and inscriptions



Height: 328 mm, Width: 238 mm

Object history note

Historical significance: In 1818 Constable first exhibited one of his tree studies at the Royal Academy; previously he had exhibited oil paintings almost exclusively there.

Historical context note

In 1817 Constable exhibited four works at the Royal Academy: 'Scene on a navigable river' ('Flatford Mill on the River Stour') (Tate Gallery No. 1273); 'A Cottage' (see No. 352 [1631-1888]); 'Wivenhoe Park, Essex, the seat of Major-General Rebow' (National Gallery of Art, Washington: Widener Collection); and a portrait of John Fisher, still in the Fisher family collection. He spent ten weeks of the summer at East Bergholt. His first child, John Charles, was born on 4 December.

[G Reynolds, 1973, p. 115]

Descriptive line

Drawing 'Study of ash trees' by John Constable

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

G. Reynolds, Victoria and Albert Museum: Catalogue of the Constable Collection, 1973, pp. 118-19, no. 163.
Parris, Leslie and Ian Fleming-Williams, Constable London : The Tate Gallery, 1991. ISBN 1854370707 / 1854370715. 544 p. : ill. (some col.)
Exhibition catalogue.
Catalogue of the Constable Collection, Graham Reynolds, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1973, pp. 115, 118, 119
The following is an extract from the text of the entry:

The foremost tree in this study from nature appears to be the same as that in the right foreground of The Valley Farm (Tate Gallery No. 327), recongisable from the dead branch hanging vertically downwards on the left, a little more than half way up the tree. See note to No. 375 [1249-1888] for a fuller discussion of the relationship between the foremost tree in this study from nature and ‘The Valley Farm’. The drawing is placed in this position in the catalogue because it has close affinities with Constable’s other detailed drawings of trees in the collection; compare, for instance, the undetailed treatment of the background with that in No. 161 [256-1888]. But, for the reason given in the note to No. 376 [1248-1888], there is a slight possibility that No. 375 [1249-1888] as well as No. 376 [1248-1888] may have been drawn from a tree at Hampstead. If that were so, No. 163 [252-1888] would probably not have been drawn before 1819, when Constable first stayed at Hampstead.
Anne Anderson, Tim Craven, Della Hooke. Steve Marshall, Ian Massey, Under the Greenwood. Picturing the British tree from Constable to Kurt Jackson ISBN: 9781908326300

Exhibition History

Under the Greenwood: Picturing the British Tree (St Barbe Museum 27 July 2013-25 Oct 2013)
Constable: a breath of fresh air (The Millennium Galleries, Sheffield 08/02/2003-27/04/2003)
John Constable, selected by Lucian Freud (Grand Palais 10/10/2002-13/01/2003)
Constable (Tate Gallery 13/06/1991-15/09/1991)





Subjects depicted

Tree, ash



Collection code


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