View on the River Stour by John Constable
‘View on the River Stour, near Dedham’, a full-scale sketch by John Constable which is estimated ‘in the region of’ £12m-16m’. It will be offered at Christie’s Defining British Art sale in London.

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Unveiling the full-scale oil sketch at their King Street rooms this morning, global president of Christie’s International Jussi Pylkkänen told ATG that this picture would be the centrepiece of the themed evening sale on June 30. It will be offered with an estimate ‘in the region of’ £12m-16m’.

It will appear at the 30-lot auction alongside works by Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), George Stubbs (1724-1806), Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896) and Lucian Freud (1922–2011).

First announced last month, the Defining British Art sale will be part of the events marking Christie’s 250th anniversary.

The Constable comes to auction from a private lady who bought it over 20 years ago but it has not appeared at auction since it sold at Christie’s back in 1883. The auctioneers said it was in fine condition with the canvas unlined and with virtually no varnish on the surface.

“Museum Quality”

View on the River Stour near Dedham dates from c.1821-22 and Christie’s are billing it as the last of the artist’s great six-foot sketches to remain in private hands. The 4ft 3in x 6ft 1in (1.29 x 1.85m) oil on canvas shows the stretch of the River Stour upstream from Flatford Mill and Lock.

This picture was made in his London studio based on his plein-air drawings and is the fourth of a series of six full-scale sketches of the scene – the others all being in public collections. The ‘finished’ oil, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1822, can now be found in The Huntington Art Gallery in San Marino, California.

This sketch though has been exhibited in key shows including the Constable landscapes exhibition that toured Tate Britain, London, the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, and The Huntington Art Gallery between 2006 and 2007.

Christie’s hold the auction record for Constable which was set in July 2012 when they sold The Lock, another of the artist's celebrated series of large-scale paintings of life on the Stour. That famous painting came from the Thyssen Bornemisza collection and sold at £20m. Sotheby’s sold a later version of the picture for £8m last December.

Commenting on the current picture, Jussi Pylkkänen said: “Not since Constable’s Lock have we had the opportunity to work with a painting of this calibre by one of the titans of British painting. To stand in front of this expansive work, is to understand why the great British modern painters and even the French Impressionists revered Constable as their spiritual mentor.”