Portrait of artist through letters

PUBLISHED: 12:52 08 December 2001 | UPDATED: 10:59 03 March 2010

PERSONAL letters written by Suffolk born artist John Constable to members of his family are expected to fetch up to £24,000 when they are auctioned in London.

By Colin Adwent

PERSONAL letters written by Suffolk born artist John Constable to members of his family are expected to fetch up to £24,000 when they are auctioned in London.

A total of 18 rare letters in four lots which reveal the artist's undying love for his wife and relationship with his children go under the hammer at Sotheby's on Thursday, December 13.

One lot is three autograph draft love letters and one autograph 'journal' letter, to his future wife Miss Maria Bicknell, which are expected to fetch £5,000 to £7,000.

The artist wrote: "…much indeed must I congratulate myself on having loved you – when I see your exerting those high principals [sic] of duty on the behalf of your excellent Parents…"

After returning to London from Suffolk he wrote enthusiastically of his determination to allay anxiety by devoting himself to his 'profession' and how much 'happiness' and 'consolation' he derives from their correspondence.

These letters relate to the stressful period in which the 34-year-old painter tried to establish himself while courting his childhood sweetheart, who returned his love, but in the face of opposition from her family.

Their relationship by correspondence lasted for five years, until they finally ran out of patience and married regardless in 1816.

One of the letters is one of the ones which, as he told her on May 16, 1826, was written as 'a sort of Journal' and was the last Constable is known to have written to his wife, who died two years later, after bearing him seven children.

Two autograph letters to his daughters, are expected to reach between £1,500 and £2,000.

Another letter signed by Constable "Your affectionate & dear Papa John Constable" is to his young daughter Emily (1825-39), expresses pleasure at the receipt of a letter from her, giving news of her sisters at Wimbledon and brother John in Suffolk.

Letters to his teenaged eldest son John Charles (1817-41) are expected to fetch between £8,000 and £12,000. They are an affectionate series written in the years after the death of his wife and report current family news, commenting on his son's health and education, Constable's own travels and remarking on other members of their circle.

Three autograph letters to the artists's sister Ann 'My dear Sister Ann' are expected to fetch between £2,500- £3,000.

They are letters sending her Easter hot cross buns, reporting news of his 'Household' and of the birth of his fifth child ('a dear Baby'), warning her to care of her health, sending Christmas greetings, reflecting on the state of his children.

There is also a letter signed by the young John C. Constable (1817-41), to his sister Minny (Maria Louisa, 1819-85), about a box of minerals, a fishing rod, and his family, subscribed with an autograph letter (unsigned) by John Constable the elder, to his sister Martha Whalley (1769-1845) in Dedham, about coming to relieve her of his 'dear little Girls' referring to the interruption to their education because of 'this nasty beggerly school complaint'.

John Constable was born in East Bergholt


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