Rare Constable comes to town

WITH the help of a major Lottery grant, Ipswich Museums Service has acquired another painting by John Constable.The acquisition makes the borough council's collection the largest of his paintings held in any British public collection outside London.

WITH the help of a major Lottery grant, Ipswich Museums Service has acquired another painting by John Constable.

The acquisition makes the borough council's collection the largest of his paintings held in any British public collection outside London.

The oil painting entitled 'Ladies from the family of Mr William Mason of Colchester' is a rare early piece by Constable.

Finding only occasional buyers for his landscapes, Constable was forced to undertake portrait commissions, often of friends of the family who lived locally.

Painted around 1802-6, and still in its original frame, the painting depicts four ladies with their dog and, through a window, a view of Stratford St Mary church. William Mason was a prominent solicitor in Colchester, and also the Constable family's lawyer. He married Constable's cousin Anne Parmenter (or Parminter) in 1792 and they lived at St Mary's in Church Street, Colchester. The two families knew each other well, as indicated in correspondence of the date.

This latest work was bought for the town thanks to a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and donations from the Friends of Ipswich Museums and Professor Brogan of the University of Essex.

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After being outbid at auction in London last summer, the council's registration and collections manager Sally Dummer, approached the purchaser, a London gallery owner, who agreed to sell it to the council which then re-applied for the Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

The £170,000 picture was collected in January and is now on display at Christchurch Mansion.

The picture will be unveiled by mayor Richard Risebrow, at a ceremony at Christchurch Mansion on February 25, at 11am.

Councillor John Mowles, Ipswich Borough Council's leisure and arts spokesman, said: "This is the ninth Constable oil painting we have, along with a greater number of drawings and mezzotints, and it shows our commitment to fine art in Ipswich."

Amanda Arrowsmith, chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund's East of England Committee, said: "Visitors to Ipswich and local residents now have access to a wide range of Constable's early work, giving them a broader understanding of this great master as well providing a wonderful insight into local history and landscapes."

Adrian Parry, Chairman of the Friends of Ipswich Museums said: "Constable portraits in public collections are rare and this work will augment and develop the collection which is already acknowledged as a local and national centre for the study of Constable's early work."

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