Page last updated at 00:00 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

John Constable's Stour Valley location mystery solved

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The exact spot in Suffolk where John Constable painted one of his most famous works has been identified for the first time in almost 200 years.

The location of The Stour Valley and Dedham Village had been difficult to pinpoint due to gradual changes to the landscape since it was painted in 1815.

But new research by the National Trust has helped identify the viewpoint.

Martin Atkinson, of the Trust, said: "It's great to see where an old master once stood."

Mr Atkinson, who is the National Trust property manager for East Suffolk, used features from the painting and historic maps to identify the exact location.

Compare how the scene looked 200 years ago with today

He said: "When I discovered that I had worked out the location where Constable painted this particular masterpiece, I couldn't believe it. All the pieces of the jigsaw finally fitted together."

Painted between 1814 and 1815, The Stour Valley And Dedham Village depicts Langham church, Dedham church, Fen Bridge and the bend in the River Stour.

Over time, hedge boundaries have moved and trees have become established, blocking out some of the buildings behind.

By studying the buildings and river as well as the East Bergholt Enclosure Map of 1817, Mr Atkinson found boundaries in place in 1817 had changed drastically by 1830.

He said: "Many had disappeared altogether and new hedges appeared at different angles. By plotting out where the field boundaries would once have been, we were able to pinpoint the exact location from which Constable painted this particular view."

Mr Atkinson added: "Most of Constable's landscapes painted in the Dedham Vale are now known, but questions do remain over some.

"This one in particular had confused us, but once we were able to identify the changes in the landscape, many of which had been made in Constable's lifetime, we were able to solve the 195-year mystery."

The Stour Valley And Dedham Village is now housed in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, US.



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