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Page last updated at 16:54 GMT, Thursday, 21 January 2010
John Constable's painting for A History of the World

A History of the World
By Jon Wright and Andrew Woodger
BBC Suffolk

John Constable's painting of his fathers kitchen garden
Golding Constable's vegetable garden by John Constable

One of John Constable's paintings intended for his private collection is the second in our series of items picked by Suffolk museums for the BBC's A History of the World (AHOW) project.

"Losing both your parents in such a short space of time means your own landscape is going to completely change," said Emma Roodhouse, curator at Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich.

The picture chosen for AHOW is of the vegetable/kitchen garden in East Bergholt owned by Constable's father Golding. It forms a pair with his painting of the family flower garden.

Constable's painting The Haywain is arguably the most iconic image of England. The rural scene at Flatford Mill on the River Stour hangs in the National Gallery.

Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich has a room of Constable's other works alongside Suffolk's other great landscape artist Thomas Gainsborough .

Self-portrait by John Constable, 1812
Self-portrait by John Constable, 1812

Constable (1776-1837) was born in East Bergholt and his father owned a mill there and at nearby Dedham. John went to school in Lavenham and Dedham.

The garden paintings reflect a period of the artist's life when his mother, Ann, had just died and his father was terminally ill.

"His mother was certainly a strong presence," said Emma Roodhouse.

"You look at the vegetable garden, but with the flower garden the skies are slightly darker.

"He kept them as his own personal pictures and they were eventually sold by his son Charles, did the rounds at auction houses and were bequeathed to Ipswich in 1955.

"We were very lucky to get them as a pair because they should be seen as a pair."

Ipswich Musem's art curator Emma Roodhouse looks at Constable's two garden pictures
Emma is a curator at Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich

A Lott of Constables

Christchurch Mansion also has Constable's portraits of his mother and brother, as well as a painting of Golding Constable by Daniel Gardner.

"We're fortunate to have the largest collection of Constables outside London," said Emma. "We have a view of Willy Lott's cottage made famous through The Haywain.

"We also have paintings by followers of Constable, so his influence was of major importance and still goes on really. So we have other 19th Century views by other Suffolk artists."

As well as 19th Century views nationally renowned artist Maggi Hambling repeatedly paints 21st Century views of Suffolk. Her North Sea paintings are based on sketches she makes on the coast around Aldeburgh.

"I vastly prefer Constable to Turner," said Maggi. "The paint is far more rugged and necessary, whereas Turner seems slightly to be showing off with his paint.

"Being born in Sudbury, so close to where Constable painted, I feel a kinship with Constable if you like.

"Perhaps I'm doing for the sea what Constable did for the sky?"

Christchurch Mansion is open every day (except 24-26, 31 December and 1 January) 10am-5pm.

Watch a video about another of Constable's works called The Stour Valley & Dedham Village. The National Trust say they've solved the mystery of the location of the precise spot where Constable was standing:


John Constable dung-hill located

Constable location mystery solved
26 Jan 10 |  Arts & Culture
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In pictures: Changing waterfront
30 Oct 09 |  Arts & Culture
Orford's art of war and nature
18 Nov 09 |  Arts & Culture
Maggi Hambling and the North Sea
23 Sep 09 |  Arts & Culture


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