Brits to Block Export of 'Lock'

LONDON -- A masterpiece by John Constable (1776-1837), 'The Lock', long considered to be one of his most iconic compositions, fetched £9million /$13.7 million at Sotheby’s auction on Wednesday evening.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network have no fear that this masterpiece could ever leave its British homeland to take up residence in the collection of its new -- and likely foreign -- owner.

160 years after its last appearance on the market, the monumental landscape which depicts the countryside of the painter’s “careless boyhood” was the highlight of the Old Master & British Paintings Evening sale which totaled £22.6 million/$34 Million (est. £21.8-32.6 million). It was last transacted to an English family in 1855 for £860.

This canvas, which was previously in the collection of the artist, is considered to be one of his finest, and surely will not be granted an export license, if the buyer is from outside the UK.

We will be reporting on who purchased this masterpiece and updating this article as the buyer is made known.

Alex Bell, Joint International Head and Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department said:

"The Lock belongs to a small group of pictures that define Constable’s oeuvre and genius. The artist’s absolute mastery as a landscape painter is everywhere in the picture and this was reflected in the result achieved tonight.

"The painting was one of many museum-quality works presented in the sale, an unprecedented proportion of which were from private collections and came to the market for the first time in several generations. The combination of quality and freshness to the market are key in this field and certainly account for this evening’s strong results.”

Painted circa 1824-5 when Constable was at the height of his powers, The Lock is one of only three major works by Constable left in private hands.

This iconic image is the fifth in the series of six monumental landscapes popularly known as the artist’s ‘Six-Footers’, which for many define the pinnacle of Constable’s career.

Depicting a bucolic scene on the River Stour in the artist’s native Suffolk, and painted in response to the huge critical acclaim that greeted Constable's first treatment of the composition (exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1824), the picture was treasured by the artist.

Retained by him in his studio until the end of his life, it was singled out by him for prestigious exhibitions. The painting was chosen as the basis for the engraving that was to make it among the most familiar and celebrated images in the canon of British art.

Today's homepage Featured Art Video explores Constable's unique relation to sky and landscape.