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Oil painting - The Valley of the Stour with Dedham in the Distance
  • The Valley of the Stour with Dedham in the Distance
    Constable, John RA, born 1776 - died 1837
  • Enlarge image

The Valley of the Stour with Dedham in the Distance

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain, uk (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1800 (painted)

  • 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 315, case 25, shelf R

This painting depicts the Stour valley in Essex. The river passes under the bridge at Stratford St Mary and meanders through Dedham, with its high church tower, to the estuary at Harwich. The clear naturalism and sense of light owe much to Constable's practice of making oil sketches in the open air.

Physical description

Oil painting

Place of Origin

Great Britain, uk (probably, painted)


ca. 1800 (painted)


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

Materials and Techniques

oil on paper laid on canvas


Height: 49.8 cm estimate, Width: 60 cm estimate

Object history note

Given by Isabel Constable, 1888

Historical context note

In 1805 Constable exhibited 'A Landscape: Moonlight' at the Royal Academy. According to an unpublished entry in the Diary, he called on Farington on 1 June to say that he had been engaged to paint an altarpiece for a country church. This picture was probably the altarpiece for Brantham Curch which Leslie assigns to the previous year (Beckett, I, pp. 18-9)

G Reynolds, 1973, p. 52.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'The Valley of the Stour, with Dedham in the Distance', John Constable, ca. 1800

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. 63
The following is an extract from the text of the entry:

The sketch has been relined at an unknown date, and has been treated for damp and discolouration of the whites while in the Museum.

The scene is a panoramic view of the Stour valley looking south towards the estuary; in the foreground is Stratford St Mary bridge, which divides Suffolk from Essex. The building on the right is the Talbooth.

The back of the stretcher is stencilled with Messrs. Christie's reference number 138 F and inscribed in chalk Feb. 17/77. The lot number, which is partially obscured by the paper backing-up of the picture, is 195. Lots 171-197 of the sale at Messrs. Christie's on 17 February 1877 comprised "Sketches by J. Constable R. A., the property of the Artist's Family". Lot 195 'Valley of the Stour' was bought in for £49. 7s. Holmes, p. 242, says that No. 63 [321-1888] is possibly the sketch which Constable is said to have made from the top of Langham Church tower but Lt.-Col. C. A. Brooks states that this is not so. He identifies the viewpoint as a cleft slightly to the west of Gun Hill about 600 yards to the east of Langham Church and close to that of No. 37. [124-1888]. The view was a favourite one with Constable. Davies, p. 33, in his note on N.G. No 1822 links that sketch with No. 63 and lists other variants of the view. Of these, the work he records from the J. P. Heseltine collection now belongs to Lt.-Col. C. A. Brooks; it was exhibited at Messrs. Leggatt's Summer Exhibition, 1956 (No. 43, and reproduction on p. 12 of the catalogue).

Holmes dates No. 63 c. 1810. In view of the tentative nature of the drawing and technique this seems certainly too late. The dated oils of 1802 (Nos. 36, 37 and 39) [587-1888, 124-1888 and 142-1888] lay emphasis on the structure of the trees, a feature which is not apparent here. A dating nearer 1800 that 1805 is suggested by these considerations. The other versions discussed in this entry do not appear to be contemporary with No. 63. In 1964 the painting was lightly cleaned and revarnished. During this process certain darkened areas of old retouching were removed. These had been applied to cover small areas of paint loss where the red ground was exposed; these losses had apparently been caused by some form of impurity in the support, ground or adhesive used in laying the paper on canvas. The more disturbing areas of damage were retouched, and the painting now has a far more serene and homogeneous appearance, but this does not appear to call for a revision of the views expressed above about its date.'
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. 4.
Carolina Brook and Valter Curzi, eds., Hogarth, Reynolds, Turner : British painting and the rise of modernity Milan : Skira, c2014. ISBN: 9788857222714.

Exhibition History

Constable (Tate Gallery 13/06/1991-15/09/1991)


Paper; Canvas; Oil paint


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Landscape; Dedham



Collection code


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