John Constable masterpiece The Lock goes under the hammer for £9.1m

A Sotheby's gallery technician hanging The Lock by John Constable, which sold for �9.1m. Photo: Soth

A Sotheby's gallery technician hanging The Lock by John Constable, which sold for �9.1m. Photo: Sotheby's/PA Wire - Credit: PA

A work of art by Suffolk painted John Constable which was kept by his side until his death has sold at auction for £9.109million.

The Lock went under the hammer last night at the famous Sotheby’s auction house in London.

The painting is one of two produced by Constable with the other having fetched £22.4million when sold in 2012.

That was the first, original painting (known as the Morrison version), which perhaps explains the high price paid for it compared with the £8-12m guide price for the version sold yesterday.

This was a copy by Constable himself (the Foster version) which meant he could always send one of his most critically-acclaimed paintings to exhibitions.


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It has subtle differences to the original, such as more dramatic rain clouds and the inclusion of birds in the sky on the right hand side.

Julian Gascoigne, Sotheby’s senior British pictures specialist, said: “This breath-taking painting belongs, together with The Hay Wain, to the small group of pictures that for many define Constable’s career.

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“Constable’s absolute mastery as a landscape painter is everywhere in this picture – in the vigour of the almost impressionistic brushwork, in the drama of the clouds and the changing weather, even in the movement of the grass in the fields and the sparkle of water as it cascades through the lock.

“It is one of those pictures that captivates, and the more one looks, the more one sees.”

The Lock is part of Constable’s ‘six footers’, the fifth in the series of six works depicting scenes within three miles of his family home.

Another, Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, was bought by the Tate art gallery for £23.1m in 2013 with the acquisition part of a partnership between five national and regional galleries including Colchester and Ipswich Museums; it has since been on display at Christchurch Mansion.

David Moore-Gwyn, British paintings consultant to Sotheby’s, said: “For many people, Constable captures, like no other artist, the essence and beauty of the English countryside.

“This is quite simply one of the most loved and celebrated works in the history of British Art and also one of a very small handful of great Constables still in private hands.”

The Foster version of The Lock has only appeared at auction once before when it was sold in 1855 for £860 – then a record for any Constable painting.

It was exhibited before the auction in Hong Kong, New York and Los Angeles.

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