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
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".