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How Art Experts Discovered New John Constable Painting Worth $6.5 million

Not only have art experts discovered an unseen oil sketch of Hampstead by Romantic painter John Constable which had been concealed behind another of his works for at least 125 years, but they found the fifth original Glebe Farm painting now worth millions.

John Constable who was born in Suffolk is known principally to have revolutionised the genre of landscape painting with his pictures of East Bergholt, the surrounding areas where he was bought up. 

In fact, the Victorian and Albert Museum in London boasts the largest collection of works by John Constable anywhere in the world. He is considered to be one of the world’s most influential landscape artists – one that somehow represents the perfect countryside vision of any British landscape.

His extraordinary ability to feel emotional depth and serenity, in seemingly mundane scenes, has always inspired admiration. Taking a closer look at how these influences played out in his life and work Constable was not only a revolutionary but a storyteller.

He considered himself to be an artist to paint the world as it truly was.

John Constable
Constable, John| Reinagle, Ramsay Richard; John Constable; National Portrait Gallery, London.

It was only really in the eye of the impressionists that he was acknowledged as one of the founders of modern art. Constable said that painting was another word for feeling. 

With his father working as a prosperous Suffolk merchant with interests chiefly in corn and coal, it’s obvious why Constable loved landscapes.  

Now, one of his famous paintings is causing a great stir on the art market – The Glebe Farm.

The Glebe Farm painting depicts a cottage nestling in woodland. This was a common theme in 19th-century art. However, Constable created this masterpiece for personal reasons.  

John Constable
The Glebe Farm c.1830 John Constable 1776-1837 Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900

The image is based on an oil sketch of Dr Fisher’s home, the Bishop of Salisbury and one of Constable’s closest friends and supporters. Fisher’s death in 1825 prompted Constable to return to the sketch and produce multiple oil paintings of the scene.

These copies of the original painting eventually found themselves spread across the world – with no one really knowing which one was the original.

The painting disappeared around 1867 but resurfaced in Cincinnati in 1922 when his grandson, Thomas Edwards Davidson inherited it. Davidson passed away in 1994 and the painting was sold by his descendants last year. 

However, the painting that the United Kingdom did have was initially believed to be a ‘copy’ and was sold at an auction in Cincinnati, Ohio, last year for $55,000.

John Constable
Image of The Glebe Farm copy at Sothebys

But this all changed when art experts discovered that the painting by Constable was in fact the original erosion. 

It comes after an old poetry book was found to contain lost artwork from the famous English landscape painter John Constable. 

While preparing Branch Hill Pond for a major Constable exhibition at the V&A 2022, the conservators removed the loose lining canvas and discovered the oil sketch as well as a cluster of more hidden gems.

Constable, John; Branch Hill Pond, Hampstead Heath, with a Boy Sitting on a Bank; Tate.

Now it will be sold at Sotheby’s Old Masters auction on December 8 with an estimated value of $4million to $6.5million.

One version of The Glebe Farm is housed at the Detroit Institute of Arts and the other three versions are at the Tate. This new fifth version, interestingly, has an added feature that Constable painted. 

Art experts say that the addition of a windmill to the right of Fisher’s cottage was a tell-tale sign of originality. They also dated the painting back to 1828.

“The recent discovery is a rare and enormously exciting event. Constable was thrifty with his artist’s materials and sometimes painted sketches on both sides of scraps of reused canvas. It has been stuck there for centuries.”Mark Evans, the V&A’s senior curator of paintings

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