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John Constable

1776 – 1837

Mill near Colchester by John Constable

Mill near Colchester   1845-4

  Mezzotint by David Lucas after John Constable.
Ref: Shirley 50, progress proof ‘q’
S 299 x 437 mm; P 189 x 242 mm; I (borderline) 136 x 189 mm
Rare progress proof before all letters and prior to completion of the image. Shirley progress proof ‘q’.

Superb impression with bright highlights and strong contrast, the mezzotint burr absolutely fresh and without sign of wear. In this state of the plate the sky and contrast are at their most dramatic; in Shirley’s subsequent state numerous lights were added at the lower left corner of the image and in still later states the sky became much lightened, reducing its dark and threatening nature.

After John Constable’s death his engraver, David Lucas, continued to work on the English Landscape series, adding a handful of plates whichs were not published until during the mid-1840’s. These were produced for the New Series under C.R. Leslie’s supervision, and they continue the spirit of the great artist’s work. This striking mezzotint engraving is an early working proof, designed for this New Series, but prior to first publication.

One of the most dramatic of the plates issued by Lucas in the mid-1840’s, Mill near Colchester is based upon a watercolour which formerly belonged to Miss Isabel Constable. It is thought that John Constable was considering Lucas making a mezzotint of this subject as early as March 1831; however, Lucas does not appear to have begun work on this particular engraving until early 1845. The sky in this composition displays the activity for which John Constable is so well known and the varied lighting across the plate, particularly apparent in this early working proof, is a remarkable achievement of soft steel mezzotint engraving.

On warm white wove paper, with full margins. Very good condition. Image surface excellent.