John Constable‘s “The Lock” broke the artist’s record sale at an auction today at at Christie’s in London. The British painting from the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection sold in its £20-25 million estimate at £22.4 million, earning a joint fourth place title on the list of most-expensive Old Masters.
The oil on canvas piece, looking westward onto the scene, portrays Suffolk rural life with a man operating a capstan in anticipation for a passing boat. Known for his landscape paintings and studies of light and movement, Constable used quick, broken brushstrokes to portray the rapidity of change in his landscapes. His distinct style in depicting his childhood settings became influential for later artists after his time, especially those involved in the French Impressionist movement.
The sale of “The Lock,” the fifth of the six work Stour Series, has outraged many and elicited much criticism of the owner, Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, for her decision to sell the piece. Although the Baroness claimed “it’s very painful for me, (to sell the painting) but there was no other way out. I need the money, I really need it,” those close to her, including her stepdaughter, have openly denied her financial problems. Sir Norman Rosenthal, who recently resigned his position as a trustee of Madrid’s Bornemisza Museum because of the decision, stated that “I am afraid I have to say in my humble opinion she has little or no understanding of art history or of genuine artistic importance in the context of the museum.”
The piece sold today at Christie’s London Old Masters Evening Auction.