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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
  • Enlarge image

A dog watching a rat in the water at Dedham

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Dedham (painted)
    Essex (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:


  • Gallery location:

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

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 (painted)
Essex (painted)


01/08/1831 (painted)


John Constable, born 1776 - died 1837 (painter)

Materials and Techniques

Pencil and watercolour on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'My dear Boys'
Start of a letter in ink (smudged) on the back.

'Dedham August 1st 1831'
Inscribed by the artist in pencil on the back, with the pencil sketch

Serial number inscribed in ink.

'Rose', 'M.L.C.'
Inscribed in pencil (M.L.C. is Maria Louisa Constable, the artist's daughter)

Blind stamp on the drawing paper.


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
R. B. Beckett, John Constable's Correspondance, 1962, vo1. 1, p. 264


Pencil; Watercolour



Subjects depicted

Rivers; Dogs




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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