Monday, February 24, 2014

Constable at Petworth

In the summer of 1834 Constable visited Petworth House on two occasions.  The second time he stayed for two weeks and during these visits he sketched and painted many local scenes.  I don't claim to be any kind of expert when it comes to art (in fact I'm no expert at all!) but as the old adage goes 'I know what I like' and what I like are watercolours and this small, but perfectly formed, exhibition delivers.  Petworth is mainly known as the haunt of J.W.M.Turner and Lord Egremont was a generous patron to him and consequently Constable didn't get much of a look in.  There are forty paintings in all and show ordinary life and everyday landscapes in and around Petworth.  Two paintings jumped out at me, mainly because we'd visited these places in the last few days.  'Wicked Hammond's House' a study in pencil, which I instantly recognised as a pub we'd been to the previous night, now going by the name of The Grove Inn and a watercolour of the church at Tillington with it's rather crazy tower. We stayed in the village only a few days ago and had a room with a wonderful view of the church tower, as written about here.  Anyway, I love a good story behind a painting and this one caught my imagination.  Constable made this drawing on the 25th September 1834 and it's now in the collection of the V&A.  The exhibition catalogue  tells of how Constable  made the drawing while on a joint sketching excursion with Charles Robert Leslie, that Leslie records the excursion as follows: “I recollect spending a morning with him, he drawing the outside while I was sketching the interior, of a lonely farmhouse which was the more picturesque from its being in a neglected state, and which a  woman we found in it told us was called ‘wicked Hammond’s house’: a man of that name, strongly suspected of great crimes, having formerly been it’s occupant.  She told us that in an old well in the garden some bones had not long ago been found, which the ‘doctor said were the arm bones of a Christian‘. (Constable at Petworth; Loukes, A; 2014,  National Trust Catalogue).  A story like this really brings a painting to life I think.

{Wicked Hammond's House - Constable 1834}

{Tillington Church - Constable 1834)
'Constable at Petworth' runs until 14th March 2014 - advisable to book.

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