“The Lock” is one of a celebrated series of six large-scale canvases that also includes “The Hay Wain,” arguably his most famous work that hangs in Britain’s National Gallery in London. “The Lock” is also the last of the series still in private hands, and is being offered from the private collection of Baroness Carmen Thyssen Bornemisza. The painting has been sold only once since it was acquired from the artist, raising 10.8 million pounds at auction in 1990, making it the most valuable British painting ever sold at the time -- a record it held for 16 years.
The current auction record for a British painting is, most experts agree, $86.3 million for a 1976 Francis Bacon triptych sold in 2008. Bacon was born in Ireland, but is often described as British due to his English parentage and the fact that he spent much of his life in London.
“This superb landscape, coming from the same series as ‘The Hay Wain,’ represents British landscape painting at its very best and is sure to attract bidding from museums and collectors from all over the world,” said Jussi Pylkkanen, president of Christie’s Europe, Middle East, Russia and India.
“The Lock” was completed in 1824, one of the most important years in Constable’s career which saw “The Hay Wain” exhibited at the Paris Salon and King Charles X of France award him a gold medal.
Constable’s success in France has been seen by many experts as a factor in inspiring French artists in a movement of landscape painting that would find its fullest expression some five decades later in the work of the Impressionists. “The Lock” is a landscape depicting a man at a lock with a boat on the river just behind him, set under a towering tree and a dramatic, cloud-filled sky.