SKETCHES drawn by one of the country’s finest ever landscape painters have fetched a combined £115,000 at auction after initially being bought for the princely sum of just £3 each.

Drawings by John Constable were discovered in a house clearance after the death of playwright Christopher Fry.

His son, Tam, had no idea they were done by the celebrated artist.

“We thought they were beautiful, but we never realised they were Constables.

“To be told the provenance is unbelievable,” he said.

Constable split his time between London and his home village of East Bergholt and painted stunning landscapes of the area around it which has now become popularly known as Constable Country.

The recently discovered drawings of a wooded glade are believed to be Constable’s early ideas for illustrating the scene of Jaques and the Wounded Stag from Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

He created a range of designs in his capacity as one of the artists commissioned to illustrate The Seven Ages of Shakespeare, a compilation published in 1840.


  • John Constable

They were bought for a combined £6 in 1951 and when they went under the hammer at Chiswick Auctions in London, they were expected to fetch up to £8,000 but eventually sold for £75,000 and £40,000 to a telephone bidder.

Head of British and European Art at the auction house Suzanne Zack said: “The drawings were given to me covered in dust.

“After examination I decided to contact Anne Lyles, the leading Constable expert and former Tate curator to investigate further

“She was in no doubt they were by Constable and described them as exciting discoveries and small compositional drawings in pen, ink and wash which can be dated to Constable’s late period.

“What’s amazing is that, in a few pen and ink marks with brown wash he creates the light and shade of a composition.

“You can see that he did it quickly and drew a little frame around it.

“It shows his brilliance, how quickly they were done, but also how he was able to create a real composition in a tiny format.”

She added said: “It’s been so exciting uncovering previously unpublished works we are delighted with such an incredible result.

“These works were fresh to the market and were in exceptional condition.

“There was huge demand on the day with spirited bidding on several telephones and on the internet.

“A private collector on the telephone finally won out to rapturous applause in the saleroom.

“We hope they will treasure them, now that we are all aware of their importance to John Constable’s oeuvre.”