‘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.
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.
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