Sunday - 07 February 2016

A £20m key to The Lock by Constable

08 June 2012Written by Roland Arkell

In response to the exhibition of The Lock at the Royal Academy in 1824, The Morning Post wrote: “Mr Constable contributes a landscape composition which for depth, sparkling light, freshness and vigorous effect, exceeds any of his works.” Christie’s will offer the picture for sale as part of their Old Master & British Paintings evening sale on July 3.

One of six paintings that make up the artist's celebrated series of large-scale paintings of life on the Stour, The Lock is the last to remain in private hands. It shows a lock-keeper at the gates of Flatford Lock while a barge waits in the basin for the water-level to drop.

When exhibited at the Royal Academy, the picture sold on the opening day - a unique event in John Constable's career - for 150 guineas to the celebrated collector James Morrison (1789-1857). It was inherited by his grandson Colonel James Morrison of Basildon Park, in whose family it remained until it was sold at Sotheby's in November 1990.

There it was acquired by Sotheby's advisory board member Baron Hans Thyssen-Bornemisza for £9.8m - then a world record price at auction for any British work of art (although just shy of the £10m-15m estimate).

Christie's vendor is former Miss Spain Baroness Carmen Thyssen Bornemisza, whose private collection hangs mostly in a state-built extension to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid.

In a controversial move, the painting, which carries an estimate of £20m-25m, will be sold to "safeguard the future of the private collection and allow the loan of other paintings to the museum to be secured for the foreseeable future".

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