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Oil painting - Dedham Vale
  • Dedham Vale
    Constable, John RA, born 1776 - died 1837
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Dedham Vale

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain, uk (painted)

  • Date:

    1802 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Isabel Constable

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Paintings, room 88, case SOUTH WALL

Constable based this study on the work of another artist. He rarely did this. However, here he used Hagar and the Angel, which the French artist Claude Lorrain painted in 1646. Constable esteemed Claude as 'the most perfect landscape painter the world ever saw'.

Physical description

Dedham Vale. Oil on canvas. Depicts a small river valley with trees either side. In the distance is a village with a church tower and fields with cows. In the far distance is a lake with a sailing vessel on it.

Place of Origin

Great Britain, uk (painted)


1802 (painted)


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

Materials and Techniques

oil on canvas


Height: 43.5 cm estimate, Width: 34.4 cm estimate

Object history note

Given by Isabel Constable, 1888

Historical context note

'Constable exhibited for the first time at the Royal Academy in 1802, his entry being called 'A Landscape'; this painting has not yet been identified. He visited Windsor in May (see Nos. 33-35), and was at East Bergholt in the summer and autumn.'

[G Reynolds]

Descriptive line

Dedham Vale by John Constable (1776-1837); oil on canvas; 1802 .

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
Catalogue of the Constable Collection, Graham Reynolds, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1973, cat. no. 37
G. Reynolds, Victoria and Albert Museum: Catalogue of the Constable Collection, 1973, pp. 44-48
The following is an extract from the text on the entry:

'The canvas has been relined. A T-shaped tear to the right of the lower fork in the large tree (right foreground) has been repaired, and also a line of small holes on the right. The stretcher is inscribed in pencil Sep 1802 John .... Isabel Constable. The gap indicated by the dots is occupied by a label recording that three small damaged areas were coloured over by the restorers in 1893. The date on the stretcher is presumably based upon some inscription visible on the back of the canvas before it was relined at an unrecorded date. The picture is painted over a brown ground which is visible in places.

The painting has long been recognised as the source from which Constable composed his large oil painting 'Dedham Vale', exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1828 (Holmes, p. 239). Shirley (L. ed. S., p. 22) points out that the composition is based upon Claude's 'Hagar and the Angel' (now in the National Gallery, No. 61). Leslie (L. ed. S., p.5) records that Constable first saw the picture, which was then in the collection of Sir George Beaumont, at the house of the Dowager Lady Beaumont in Dedham, and that he regarded this event as an important epoch in his life. An unpublished entry in Farington's Diary (for 29 May 1800) says that Constable was then copying Sir George Beaumont's "small, upright Claude"; and a letter to Dunthorne printed by Leslie without date (L. ed. S., p. 14) refers to his copying the 'Hagar'. A copy by Constable of the same work was Lot 48 on the first day of the Executors' sale of 1838, and fetched £53. 11s. O (Holmes, p. 230).


Note on Nos. 36, 37, 39 and 40

In the letter of 29 May 1802 to Dunthorne which contains the first systematic formulation of his artistic faith, Constable says (L. ed. S., p. 21) "For these two past years I have been running after pictures and seeking the truth at secondhand. I have ... endeavoured to make my performances look as if really executed by other men ... I shall shortly return to Bergholt where I shall make some laborious studies from nature - and I shall endeavour to get a pure and unaffected representation of the scenes that may employ me with respect to Colour particularly and anything else - drawing I am prety well master of. - There is little or nothing in the [Royal Academy] exhibition worth looking up to. There is room enough for a natural painture (Some commentators have interpreted this as a nonce-word for "style of painting"; but in the same letter, as transcribed by Shirley, Constable refers to "a good painture" and "the French painture" where he can only mean "painter" by the noun.) Nos. 36, 37 and 39 which bear dates July, September and October 1802, and perhaps also No. 40, are among the fruits of this resolve. They are recognised as the paintings in which Constable's true bent first expresses itself, and the first auguries of his forthcoming excellence in the realistic interpretation of Nature. In the following year four works by Constable were accepted for the Royal Academy exhibition, his greatest official success in this decade. Two of them were listed as 'A Study from Nature', and two as 'A Landscape'. Although their late numbers in the Academy catalogue indicate that two or three may have been drawings, there is a possibility that on one more of Nos. 36, 37, 39 and 40 may have been among those exhibited in 1803. In any event these sketches may have been among those which Constable showed Farington on 23 March 1803: "Constable called & brought several small studies which He painted from nature in the neighbourhood of Dedham" (Greig, Vol. II, p. 88). A painting of similar type, 'The Vale of Dedham', is reproduced in the Connoisseur, Vol. CII, 1938, p. 323.
Evans, M., with N. Costaras and C. Richardson, John Constable. Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A, 2011, p. 40, cat. no. 2.
Ian Collins, ed. Masterpieces. Art and East Anglia Norwich, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, 2013. ISBN: 9780946009626.

Exhibition History

(Sainsbury Centre, Norwich 14 Sept 2013-24 Feb 2014)
John Constable, selected by Lucian Freud (Grand Palais 10/10/2002-13/01/2003)
Constable (Tate Gallery 13/06/1991-15/09/1991)


Canvas; Oil colour


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Landscapes (representations); Dedham Vale



Collection code


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