JOHN CONSTABLE R.A.
1896, Arthur Kay, H.R.S.A.
Private Collection, France
Bradford Exhibition of Fine Arts, 1904
This remarkable, spiritedly worked, sky study dating from the early 1830s is an important recent rediscovery. The dark plateaued tree line which runs along the bottom of the sheet was a common feature in Constable’s studies at this date. Anne Lyles has suggested that Constable made this study in Hampstead whilst living in Lower Terrace that overlooks the westside of Hampstead Heath.
The only known owner of this watercolour was a well-known Scottish art collector and critic, Arthur Kay, H.R.S.A. Arthur Kay is remembered for being a keen and discriminating collector (he was the owner of Rembrandt’s earliest known landscape at that time and was one of the first avid collectors of Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas).
Interestingly, Kay owned another Constable cloud study, an oil on paper study from c.1822, which is now in the Manton Collection. On the back of the stretcher an inscription reads “Study of Sky (from Nature) / by John Constable RA Bought with a sketchbook / (thro T. Maclean) direct from the Constable Family 1896 / Arthur Kay.” It seems likely that this watercolour came from that sketchbook.