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Watercolour - A dog watching a rat in the water at Dedham
  • A dog watching a rat in the water at Dedham
    John Constable, born 1776 - died 1837
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A dog watching a rat in the water at Dedham

  • Object:

    Watercolour

  • Place of origin:

    Dedham, United Kingdom (painted)
    Essex, England (painted)

  • Date:

    01/08/1831 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    John Constable, born 1776 - died 1837 (painter)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pencil and watercolour on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Isabel Constable, daughter of the artist

  • Museum number:

    235-1888

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case WD, shelf 20, box C

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Although Constable often included animals in his landscapes, images of individual animals are unusual in his oeuvre. This lively depiction of a dog watching a water rat eschews the sentimentality that was to characterise much animal painting in the coming decades.

Constable probably made this watercolour while travelling from London to Suffolk to collect his daughters, who were staying with his family there.

Physical description

A watercolour of a brown and white dog crouching among reeds on a riverbank watching a rat in the water below. The verso bears a rough pencil sketch, apparently of a dog followed by a man.

Place of Origin

Dedham, United Kingdom (painted)
Essex, England (painted)

Date

01/08/1831 (painted)

Artist/maker

John Constable, born 1776 - died 1837 (painter)

Materials and Techniques

Pencil and watercolour on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'My dear Boys'
'Dedham August 1st 1831'
'21'
'Rose', 'M.L.C.'
'BATH'

Dimensions

Height: 185 mm, Width: 226 mm

Object history note

Constable had taken his daughters to stay with his family in Suffolk, returning to London on 4 July, and it appears that this drawing was made when he went to fetch them back. He seems to have made it on a letter he started writing to his sons; on the other side of this sheet of letter paper is the phrase 'My dear Boys' in smudged ink in his hand.

Historical significance: Although Constable frequently included animals in his landscapes, animal subjects are relatively unusual in his oeuvre.

Historical context note

'In 1831 Constable exhibited at the Royal Academy 'Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows' (now in the collection of Lord Ashton of Hyde) and 'Yarmouth Pier'. He was present in the Abbey at the Coronation of William IV on 8 September (see No. 240 [218-1888]), and in the same month he paid a brief visit to Mr. Digby Neave at Epsom.'

[G Reynolds, 1973, p.202]

Descriptive line

Watercolour of a dog watching a rat in the water at Dedham, by John Constable

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

Catalogue of the Constable Collection, Graham Reynolds, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1973, pp. 202-203
The following is an extract from the text of the entry:
“The drawing is on a piece of writing paper, blind-stamped BATH, on the other side of which the artist has started a letter in ink My dear Boys [smudged]. The back also bears a rough pencil sketch (not reproduced amongst the plates), apparently of a dog followed by a man, and is inscribed by the artist in pencil Dedham August 1st 1831. It is also inscribed in ink with the serial number 21, and in pencil 'Rose' and M.L.C. [Maria Louisa Constable].

Constable had taken his daughters to stay with his family in Suffolk, returning to London on 4 July (P. Leslie, p. 30), and it appears that this drawing was made when he went to fetch them back (Beckett, I, p. 264).”
R. B. Beckett, John Constable's Correspondance, 1962, vo1. 1, p. 264
Notes that drawing appears to have been made when Constable went to Suffolk to collect his daughters, who were staying with his family in July 1831.

Materials

Pencil; Watercolour

Techniques

Watercolour

Subjects depicted

Dogs; Rivers; Dedham

Categories

Drawings

Collection code

PDP

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Qr_O117771
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