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John Constable

1776 – 1837

Leathes Water by John Constable

Leathes Water   1815

  Mezzotint engraved by Henry Dawe (1790-1848).
S 240 x 477 mm; I 132 x 384 mm
Extremely rare. A very fine impression with the full lettering and John Constable’s own publication line.

The first work to be published by John Constable himself and the earliest mezzotint of any of his works. It was not until a decade after this engraving was published, in the mid-1820’s, that Constable began to consider having mezzotints made of his works, initially by S.W. Reynolds and later, in 1829, by Reynolds’s student David Lucas. Unlike many of his contemporaries, John Constable did not make drawings for the publishers of topographical works and annuals and few of his designs were converted into prints prior to 1829. Leathes Water is one of the earliest prints made of John Constable’s work and, due to its extreme rarity, remains one of the least known mezzotints of his works.

This engraving represents Constable’s first recorded foray into the world print publishing and his choice of engraver seems to have been far from coincidental - Henry Dawe, was the brother of George Dawe, the portrait painter, who employed Constable to paint a background for him in the same year, 1815.

The precise location of this view is described in the lettering on the print itself, which reads: “Leathes Water or Wythburn Lake, Cumberland. This view is taken from the elevated part of the valley, on the road leading from Grassmere to Keswick, near Dunmail Raise. To the North in the extreme distance, rises Saddleback, and on the right is Helvellyn. / Drawn by John Constable. / Engraved by Henry Dawe / London, Published by Mr. Constable, 63, Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Square, May 1, 1815.' Aside from its importance as a work by John Constable, this view is now of great topographical interest, showing the old lake at Wythburn, or Leathes Water, as it once was - the entire valley was flooded many years ago, to create Thirlmere lake as a reservoir supply for the Greater Manchester area.

The British Museum has only one impression of this engraving – an example with the title engraved in open letters. A related pencil drawing is in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

On warm white paper, with the full outer border lines and the publication line, but trimmed just within platemark. Laid on a backing sheet and sealed, undisturbed, in its original frame. Some minor surface dirt, otherwise generally very good original condition.