Ipswich Museums add early John Constable sketches to collection

John Constable

The sketchbook that has been obtained for Ipswich Museums with work by John Constable. - Credit: Ipswich Council

Ipswich Museums have taken ownership of four early John Constable sketches after they went up for sale at Sothebys.

They were acquired for the Ipswich collection through funding from the Friends of the Ipswich Museums, Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, Art Fund and Ipswich Council’s Felix Cobbold Bequest.

Constable sketch

One of the sketches from John Constable's book. - Credit: Ipswich Council

They include a landscape painted when Constable was aged just 17 and is among his very earliest surviving works.

As well as two portraits, one of which is a work in pencil of his brother, Abram, which is believed to relate to his 1806 oil painting already housed in the Ipswich collection.

Constable sketch

This sketch is believed to be of John Constable's brother Abram. - Credit: Ipswich Council

John Constable is recognised as one of the most important British artists and the area where he was born, grew up, and painted is now world-famous as ‘Constable Country’.

The fine art collection in Ipswich already contains many works by him.

The four new artworks were found in an album containing watercolours, drawings, poems and extensive texts, ranging from jokes and ditties to comments on contemporary events. Items date from the 1790s to 1862.

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It is believed to have been compiled by the Mason family, who were related to the Constables through a marriage between the two families in 1792.

They lived in Colchester and had strong ties with Golding and Ann Constable’s children, including John and Abram.

The album was bought for £24,000 - but no council taxpayers' money was used

Cottage by Constable

A sketch of a cottage by John Constable. - Credit: Ipswich Council

A special exhibition will be curated at Christchurch Mansion this year to mark the 200th anniversary of Constable’s ‘The Hay Wain’ and the death of George Frost, who was an early mentor of John Constable’s.

Constable sketch portrait

An early sketch by John Constable. - Credit: Ipswich Council

Collections and learning curator Emma Roodhouse, who has been working on the ‘Creating Constable’ project for Ipswich Museums, said: “This album will provide an opportunity for further research into the family and will be a prominent feature in the new exhibition.”

Carole Jones, Ipswich Borough Council’s museums service portfolio holder, said: “These artworks are a wonderful addition to the Ipswich collection, and the upcoming exhibition will give the people of Ipswich new insight into such a famous local artist.”

Julia Brettell, mational programmes lead at the V&A, said: “The Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund is delighted to be able to support Ipswich Museum’s acquisition of the Mason family album.

"The museum is undoubtedly the best home for this album because it will shed light on objects across the existing collections from local history to art, enabling it to play an important role in the ‘Creating Constable’ project.”

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