JOHN CONSTABLE, R.A. (East Bergholt 1776-1837 London)
A young woman reading at a window
graphite, fragmentary watermark
812 x 634 in. (22.5 x 17.5 cm)
Isabel Constable (1823-1888).
Sir Robert Witt (1872-1952), London (L. 2228b).
with Salander-O’Reilly, New York, May 1988.
G. Reynolds, The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, New Haven and London, 1996, no. 06.138, pl. 513.
London, Courtauld Gallery, The John Witt Collection, Part II, English School, 1963, no. 51.
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Lot Essay

Constable spent the summer of 1806 staying with various friends, family and patrons. In early June he was with the Cobbold family, but by the end of the month he was with the Hobsons, before visiting his uncle and aunt James and Mary Gubbins and their children, at their home in Epsom, Surrey, in August. During each of these visits Constable appears to have been primarily engaged with capturing the human figure and he produced numerous rapidly executed figure studies, mainly in pencil, such as the present drawing.
William Hobson was a builder who built Martello Towers and part of the London Docks. It is likely that Constable was introduced to the Hobsons through a mutual friend of the Cobbolds. The Hobson’s had sixteen children, of which the eldest girls were Ann (born 1785), Susanna (born 1786), Laura (born 1788), Lydia (born 1789) and Emma (born 1791). Constable spent almost a month with the family at their home, Markfield House, Tottenham from the end of June. It is not certain whether he was there to undertake a possible commission, or as a temporary drawing master to the family. However, he appears to have again spent most of his time in sketching the family, rather than in exploring the surrounding landscape.
From this period there are at least three surviving sketchbooks (Musée du Louvre, Paris) as well as a number of single sheets and sheets from dismembered sketchbooks. The drawings are mostly of sketches of the various members of the three families, engaged in everyday activities, such as reading or sewing. This sheet is thought to come from his time at Markfield, and to depict one of the Hobson daughters.

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