LONDON, UK.- An 19th century painting of Hampstead Heath by John Constable has become the latest addition to the collection of The Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, after it was accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by the Government and given to English Heritage.
The oil sketch, ‘Hampstead Heath, with Pond and bathers,’ which was hung in Lord Mansfield’s Dressing Room on 29 January, shows the view west over Branch Hill Pond towards Harrow, a view which Constable (1776-1837) often used for his Hampstead studies.
An inscription on the reverse states: “Evening of Coronation July 19, 1821. Westward by North, cloudy and tempestuous looking but did not turn out so,” and contemporary weather accounts tally with this description.
July 19 was the date of the infamous coronation of George IV, when his wife, Queen Caroline, was barred from the ceremonies and the door of Westminster Hall slammed in her face.
Constable had a house in Keppel Street, Bloomsbury, but also rented a house in the summer on Lower Terrace, near Judges Walk, which overlooks the Heath. His family was growing and his wife, Maria, suffered from poor health so that he moved his family to Hampstead each summer. The landscape contrasts with his native Suffolk and displays a new phase of his work.
Constable spent time working on his depiction of skies, and his studies in Hampstead are crucial to this development in his paintings. He understood the sky’s importance in contributing to the mood of a painting.
Laura Houliston, English Heritage’s Curator for Kenwood said: “This is a very exciting acquisition for The Iveagh Bequest. This painting is an obvious and desirable addition to the permanent collection and is also of great interest to the local community.
“Constable undertook many sky studies in Hampstead and it is very fitting that this oil sketch will be displayed so close to the spot on which it was actually painted almost two centuries ago.“