About the work
‘The Lock’ is engraved after one of Constable’s series of large paintings showing Suffolk canal scenes. It depicts a lock-keeper opening the gates of Flatford Lock, while a barge waits in the basin for the water-level to drop. Flatford Lock is located on the River Stour at Flatford, near East Bergholt, Suffolk. Constable’s father, Golding Constable, was one of the Commissioners of the River Stour Navigation, who were responsible for keeping the locks in order. Golding also owned the mill adjacent to the lock and Constable painted numerous views of the area.
When exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1824, Constable’s painting ‘The Lock’ sold on the opening day for 150 guineas. Engraver Samuel William Reynolds intended to make a print after the work but never completed it. However, David Lucas, Reynolds’ pupil, engraved both ‘The Lock’ and Constable’s ‘The Cornfield’ ten years later, in 1834.
About the artist
David Lucas was born in Northamptonshire; the son of a farmer. In 1820 he began an engraving apprenticeship with S. W. Reynolds, moving into Reynolds’ home in Bayswater. By 1829 he was working with John Constable on a series of 22 plates, known as ‘English Landscape’ (published 1830-32), which was produced under Constable’s intense scrutiny. A further six plates were published by F. G. Moon in 1838, after the artist’s death. Lucas also engraved six larger prints after Constable and several prints after works by other artists, including R. Smirke, D. Roberts and T. Girtin. His last project was to rework ‘English Landscape’ for its republication in 1855. Alcoholism plagued his last decades and he died in the Fulham union workhouse, aged 79.
Born at East Bergholt in Suffolk, John Constable was the son of a miller. He claimed that the Suffolk countryside which surrounded him as a child ‘made him a painter’. In 1806, he visited the Lake District and in 1827 settled in Hampstead. Constable’s paintings ‘The Hay Wain’ and ‘View on the Stour’ were awarded the Gold Medal at the Paris Salon in 1824. The great success of these and other works exhibited in France had a significant effect on the development of the Barbizon School of landscape painters and works of the Romantic Movement. After Constable’s sudden death in 1837, a large collection of his work was bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum by his daughter.