Study of the Trunk of an Elm Tree thumbnail 1
Study of the Trunk of an Elm Tree thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, room WS , Case R, Shelf 98, Box L

Study of the Trunk of an Elm Tree

Oil Painting
ca. 1821 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Constable probably painted this remarkable sketch in Hampstead. It is so realistic that it has an almost photographic quality. The artist's friend and biographer C. R. Leslie recalled: 'I have seen him admire a fine tree with an ecstasy of delight like that with which he would catch up a beautiful child in his arms'.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Oil on paper
Brief Description
Oil painting, 'Study of the Trunk of an Elm Tree', John Constable, ca. 1821
Physical Description
Study of an elm tree trunk with a forest scene behind.
Dimensions
  • Approx. height: 306mm (Note: 544 x 499 x 40 )
  • Approx. width: 248mm
  • Frame height: 544mm
  • Frame width: 499mm
  • Frame depth: 40mm
Dimensions taken from Catalogue of the Constable Collection, Graham Reynolds, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1973
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
'JC' (Inscribed in monogram in ink on back)
Gallery Label
Label, probably created for Elise load [author unknown]: "At first sight, this study seems astonishingly 'photographic' in its acuity of detail, but closer examination reveals Constable's characteristic devotion to the physicality of oil pigments and paint-brushes. In particular, the treatment of the bark of the tree results in a tactile quality we usually only experience in the work of artists such as Velasquez and Chardin. They too were able to invest humble, ordinary subjects with a dignity and splendour. Constable would be surprised to find himself in such company, but would appreciate our recognition that - in his own words - his art was 'to be found under every hedge and in every lane'. He also wrote that 'the landscape painter must walk in the fields with a humble mind - no arrogant man was ever permitted to see nature in all her beauty'. We might also remember the anecdote Constable's friend and first biographer, Leslie, told: when William Blake saw a drawing of some trees by Constable, he announced 'Why, this is not drawing, but inspiration!'"
Credit line
Given by Isabel Constable
Object history
Given by Isabel Constable, 1888
Historical context
The chief of Constable's four exhibits in 1821 was 'Landscape: Noon' ('The Hay Wain') (National Gallery No. 1207; for the full-scale sketch see No. 209 [987-1900] in this Catalogue). His third child, Charles Golding Constable, was born on 29 March. He accompanied Archdeacon John Fisher on his visitation of Berkshire in June, took No. 2 Lower Terrace, Hampstead, for his family during the summer and autumn and paid a visit to Fisher at Salisbury in November.



[G Reynolds, 1973, p. 135]
Subject depicted
Summary
Constable probably painted this remarkable sketch in Hampstead. It is so realistic that it has an almost photographic quality. The artist's friend and biographer C. R. Leslie recalled: 'I have seen him admire a fine tree with an ecstasy of delight like that with which he would catch up a beautiful child in his arms'.
Bibliographic References
  • Catalogue of the Constable Collection, Graham Reynolds, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1973, pp. 135, 146-147
  • Hoozee, Robert (ed.), British Vision. Observation and Imagination in British Art 1750-1950, Brussels : Mercatorfonds ; Ghent : Museum voor Schone Kunsten, 2007185
  • p. 134Shân Lancaster, ed. Constable and Brighton: something out of nothing. London : Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers Ltd, 2017. ISBN: 9781785510694.
Other Number
235, plate 179 - Reynolds catalogue no.
Collection
Accession Number
786-1888

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record createdDecember 15, 1999
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