Constable painting previously dismissed as fake could fetch up to £150,000 at auction

Sylvia Ewen, from Sworders' paintings department, holding the undiscovered John Constable painting o

Sylvia Ewen, from Sworders' paintings department, holding the undiscovered John Constable painting of Dedham Vale. Picture: SWORDERS - Credit: Archant

A rare, undiscovered original John Constable painting of Dedham Vale previously dismissed as a fake could fetch up to £150,000 at auction – after investigations showed its true identity.

The undiscovered John Constable painting of Dedham Vale. Picture: SWORDERS

The undiscovered John Constable painting of Dedham Vale. Picture: SWORDERS - Credit: Archant

The 26.5cm x 43.5cm artwork of Dedham Vale, with Brantham mill and haystacks, had hung in a London townhouse for many years.

It is believed to be a preparatory oil sketch the legendary Suffolk artist made for his famous Dedham Vale painting, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1811.

Even major auction houses had reportedly dismissed the work, pained in around 1810, as a copy until staff from Sworders’ London office visited and saw from its quality that it was a genuine original.

To be sure, Sworders’ picture specialist Sarah Flynn took the painting to Anne Lyles, a world-renowned expert on Constable’s art.

The undiscovered John Constable painting of Dedham Vale. Picture: SWORDERS

The undiscovered John Constable painting of Dedham Vale. Picture: SWORDERS - Credit: Archant


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Ms Lyles described it as “an exciting new discovery”, adding that simple white flecks of paint are proof it is an original.

“This is his personal shorthand for showing their position in the landscape as well, no doubt, as to show the way they catch the light depending on the time of day and position of the sun,” she said.

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The picture also once passed through the hands of Leggatt brothers, art dealers who had a close link with the Constable family and handled a large quantity of sketches in oil, watercolour and pencil in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Sworders believes this indicates the painting may have come direct from a member of the Constable family.

This particular sketch shows the distinctive tall tower of Dedham Church in the far right-hand distance, with a weatherboarded windmill at the village of Brantham in the middle distance.

Windmills frequently caught Constable’s attention as potential subject matter for his art.

This particular viewpoint is also believed to be the furthest east that Constable ever painted Dedham Vale.

Ms Flynn said: “It is the dream of every auctioneer to discover a picture by one of the greats of western art.

“Dedham Vale is intimately associated with Constable’s life but the inclusion of one of his father’s mills in this picture makes it a particularly personal image.”

The painting will be offered for sale on December 8-9.

For more information, visit the Sworders website.

About John Constable

Artist John Constable was born in East Bergholt in 1776.

His father was a wealthy corn merchant who owned Flatford Mill, in East Bergholt, and later Dedham Mill, in Essex.

Constable is known principally for his landscape paintings of Dedham Vale, the area surrounding his home, which is now known as Constable Country.

His best-known paintings include the Hay Wain from 1821 and Wivenhoe Park from 1816.

He was a member of the Royal Academy, even though he sold far more paintings abroad in his lifetime than he did in Britain.

After becoming one of the most influential British artists of all time, he died in London in 1837.

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