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Watercolour - Old Sarum

Old Sarum

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Salisbury (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    1834 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    John Constable, born 1776 - died 1837 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Isabel Constable, daughter of the artist

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case TB, shelf 3, box I

Constable rarely toured in search of scenes to paint. His works usually show places that he knew well, or visited for reasons other than painting. This watercolour dates from his last visit to his friend John Fisher, who lived in Salisbury, England.
Old Sarum (from the Roman name for Salisbury) had fallen into decay by the 16th century. It was therefore a popular subject with artists who wanted to paint ruined or wild landscapes. These were favourite subjects with artists during the 'picturesque' period of the late 1700s. They were also popular with artists of the 'Romantic' movement of the early 19th century, when Constable painted this picture.

Physical description

Landscape with clouds, foliage, fields, and a figure and dog in the foreground.

Place of Origin

Salisbury (probably, painted)


1834 (painted)


John Constable, born 1776 - died 1837 (artist)

Materials and Techniques


Marks and inscriptions

'J WHATMAN 1830'


Height: 30 cm, Width: 48.7 cm

Historical context note

'In 1834 Constable exhibited at the Royal Academy three water-colour drawings and a pencil drawing: the former included 'The Mound of the City of Old Sarum, from the south' (No. 359 [1628-1888]) and a view of Stoke Poges Church. He visited George Constable for the first time at Arundel in July and Lord Egremont at Petworth in September.'

[G Reynolds, 1973, p. 215]

Descriptive line

John Constable, Old Sarum, 1834, Reynolds cat. no. 359

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

Grey, Anne and John Gage Constable. Impressions of Land, Sea and Sky Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 2006. ISBN: 0642541566.
Graham Reynolds, Catalogue of the Constable Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1973, pp. 215, 216
Evans, M., with N. Costaras and C. Richardson, John Constable. Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A, 2011, p. 33, fig. 30.
Timothy Wilcox, Constable and Salisbury. The Soul of Landscape London: Scala Publishers Ltd, 2011. ISBN: 978 1 85759 678 6.

Labels and date

John Constable 1776-1837
Old Sarum
Exhibited at the Royal Academy 1834

Constable wrote about this abandoned medieval town near Salisbury. 'The present appearance of Old Sarum - wild, desolate, and dreary - contrasts strongly with its former greatness. This proud and "towered city", once giving laws to the whole kingdom...can now be traced but by vast embaknments and ditches, tracked by only sheep-walks'.

Watercolour with some pen and ink on paper

Bequeated by Isabel Constable, as the gift of Maria Louisa, Isabel and Lionel Bicknell Constable, 1888
Museum no. 1628-1888 []

Subjects depicted



Drawings; Paintings


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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