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Fir Trees at Hampstead

Drawing
1820 (drawn)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

The vertical inscription in the top right-hand corner reads 'Wedding day, Hampstead Octr. 2 1820'. But as far as we know not even Constable had time to sketch on his wedding day. In fact, he was married in 1816 on 2 October, so here he was commemorating the anniversary rather than the event itself. At the time Hampstead was still a rural village separate from London. The low viewpoint of the drawing emphasises the height and majesty of the trees and lends an element of drama to the scene. It is possible that this is the drawing that the poet and painter William Blake saw, exclaiming: 'Why, this is not drawing, but inspiration!' Constable is said to have replied, 'I never knew it before; I meant it for drawing'.

Object details

Categories
Object type
TitleFir Trees at Hampstead (popular title)
Materials and techniques
Pencil on paper
Brief description
John Constable, Fir Trees at Hampstead, 1820, Reynolds cat. no. 203
Physical description
Sketch of fir trees.
Dimensions
  • Height: 233mm
  • Width: 160mm
Style
Marks and inscriptions
  • ATMAN 18 (truncated watermark)
  • Wedding day. Hampstead Octr. 2. 1820 (Inscribed vertically in the top right corner by the artist)
  • M.L.C [Maria Louisa Constable] (Inscribed on the back in pencil)
Credit line
Bequeathed by Isabel Constable, daughter of the artist
Historical context
In 1820 Constable exhibited at the Royal Academy 'Stratford Mill' (now in the collection of Sir Reginald Macdonald-Buchanan) and 'A View of Harwich Lighthouse' (see No. 142 [302-1888] above).
He stayed with Fisher at Salisbury in July and August, settled his wife and children at Hampstead by 1 September, and paid a brief visit to Malvern Hall.

[G Reynolds, 1973, p. 127]
Subject depicted
Place depicted
Summary
The vertical inscription in the top right-hand corner reads 'Wedding day, Hampstead Octr. 2 1820'. But as far as we know not even Constable had time to sketch on his wedding day. In fact, he was married in 1816 on 2 October, so here he was commemorating the anniversary rather than the event itself. At the time Hampstead was still a rural village separate from London. The low viewpoint of the drawing emphasises the height and majesty of the trees and lends an element of drama to the scene. It is possible that this is the drawing that the poet and painter William Blake saw, exclaiming: 'Why, this is not drawing, but inspiration!' Constable is said to have replied, 'I never knew it before; I meant it for drawing'.
Bibliographic reference
Catalogue of the Constable Collection, Graham Reynolds, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1973, pp. 127, 133, 132
Other number
203, plate 155 - Reynolds catalogue no.
Collection
Accession number
251-1888

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Record createdFebruary 20, 2004
Record URL
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