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Autumnal Sunset

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England, Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1812 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Constable, John RA, born 1776 - died 1837 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on paper laid on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Isabel Constable

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, room WS, case 47, shelf R

Physical description

Colourful sunset with figures and rooks in oil on paper laid on canvas.

Place of Origin

England, Great Britain (made)


ca. 1812 (made)


Constable, John RA, born 1776 - died 1837 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on paper laid on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

Autumnal Sun Set engraved for the 'English Landscape'


Height: 17.1 cm approx., Width: 33.6 cm approx., Height: 417 mm frame, Width: 569 mm frame, Depth: 40 mm frame

Object history note

Given by Isabel Constable, 1888

Historical context note

In 1812 Constable's exhibits at the Royal Academy were 'Salisbury: Morning', 'A Watermill' (Flatford Mill) (see No. 103 [135-1888]) and two small landscapes. Apart from a possible brief visit to Salisbury (see No. 118 [263-1888]) he spent most of the supper in Suffolk.

[G Reynolds, 1973, p. 77]

Descriptive line

Oil sketch, 'Autumnal sunset' by Constable.

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

Parris, Leslie and Ian Fleming-Williams, Constable London : The Tate Gallery, 1991. ISBN 1854370707 / 1854370715. 544 p. : ill. (some col.).
Exhibition catalogue
Grey, Anne and John Gage Constable. Impressions of Land, Sea and Sky Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 2006. ISBN: 0642541566.
Exhibition catalogue.
Catalogue of the Constable Collection, Graham Reynolds, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1973, cat. no. 120
Catalogue of the Constable Collection, Graham Reynolds, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1973, pp. 77, 79, 80
The following is an extract from the text of the entry:

The sketch appears to be mainly on a piece of paper laid down by the artist on canvas so that he could extend the pigmented surface at the bottom and on the right. It has been relined at an unknown date.
A label on the stretcher inscribed Autumnal Sun Set engraved for the ‘English Landscape’ possibly records an inscription on the back of the original canvas.
No. 120 [127-1888] is a sketch for the mezzotint engraving by Lucas entitled ‘Autumnal Sunset’ (S. 14) which was first proposed as a subject by Constable in September 1829, and was published in English Landscape Scenery in June 1832. There are a number of variations from this sketch in the plate, of which the most conspicuous are the addition of a small tree on the right and stooks of corn in the foremost field. These were touched in on the progress of proofs at various stages by Constable; Shirley (S.:L., p. 173) gives details. Writing to Lucas on 2 June 1832, Constable said “The Evng [‘Autumnal Sunset’] is spoild owing to your having fooled with the Rooks—they were the chief feature—which caused me to adopt the subject—nobody knew what they are—but took to them only for blemishes on the plate—“ (S.:L., p. 86). In the letter to Lucas of 15 September 1829 in which he first mentioned the subject, Constable calls it “Evg, with a flight of Rookes” (L. ed. S., p. 245). Leslie in his note on the letter records that this scene is sketched in the fields near East Berholt. The tower of Stoke Church is on the right and Langham Hill and church on the left. These details, however, were added on the plate and are not discernible on the sketch. Lt.-Col. C. A. Brooks takes the view to be from the end of Cemetery Lane (Vale Farm), looking towards Langham Church.
Holmes, p. 242, dates No. 120 [127-1888] c.1812. The similarity and style and subject to Nos. 115 [121-1888], 116 [146-1888], 117 [328-1888] and 119 [324-1888] fully justifies this dating. In the lists of contents of the complete sets of English Landscape Scenery this plate is known as ‘Sunset. Peasants returning Homeward’ (S.:L., p. 230).
E.E. Leggatt (Complete Works of David Lucas, 1903, pp. 33-4) says of the plate, presumably from notes left by Lucas: “It may almost be said that Constable knew every tree in that neighbourhood by name; the large one on the left, and in the middle distance, Dunthorne and he called the ‘wig tree’, from its shape”

Notes on Nos. 115 [121-1888], 116 [146-1888], 117 [328-1888], 119 [324-1888], and 120 [127-1888]

Another oil sketch of the same type, ‘Dedham Vale’ in the Ashmolean Museum, is dated 13 July 1812; and an oil sketch dated 12 July 1812 was in the Staats Forbes Collection. J. G. Böhler, Constable and Rubens, pp. 36 ff. discusses Nos. 115 [121-1888], 116 [146-1888], 117 [328-1888], and 120 [127-1888], and suggests that the influence of Rubens to be found in them may have been mediated through Lord Radnor’s ‘Escurial’. Constable is known to have seen this painting at some time between May and November, 1812.

Exhibition History

Constable. Impressions of Land, Sea and Sky (Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington 05/07/2006-08/10/2006)
Constable. Impressions of Land, Sea and Sky (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 03/03/2006-12/06/2006)
Constable, a breath of frsh 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)


Paper; Canvas; Oil paint


Oil painting

Subjects depicted




Collection code


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