Stour Valley and Dedham Church
John Constable, English, 1776–1837 English
55.6 x 77.8 cm (21 7/8 x 30 5/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Oil on canvas
Polly B. and Richard D. Hill Gallery (Gallery 253)
Constable's varied brushstrokes capture the light and weather of the English landscape, the textures of earth and foliage. He was the son of a miller, and his images of his native Suffolk often record the activities of the agricultural year. This down-to-earth scene shows manure being taken from a dung heap to be spread over the fields after harvest. The painting was commissioned as a wedding present for a bride who, like Constable, had grown up in this area.
1815, Thomas Fitzhugh (b. 1770 - d. 1856), Old Hall, East Bergholt, Suffolk, England, for his wife, Philadelphia Godfrey Fitzhugh (d. 1869) (original commission) [see note 1]. About 1880/1900, James McLean [see note 2]; by descent to his daughter, Alice T. McLean; sold by Alice McLean to John Mitchell, New York; 1948, sold by Mitchell to the MFA for $16,250. (Accession Date: March 11, 1948)
 See R. B. Beckett, "A Constable of 1814-15," Burlington Magazine, January 1956, p. 18. On October 25, 1814, Constable wrote in a letter to his future wife, Maria Bicknell: "I have almost done a picture of 'The Valley' for Mr. Fitzhugh (a present for Miss G to contemplate in London)...." Philadelphia Godfrey married Thomas Fitzhugh on November 11, 1814. On June 30, 1815, Constable wrote again to Miss Bicknell, "I am now going to send home Mrs. Fitzhugh's picture of Dedham."  According to John Mitchell, in a letter to to W.G. Constable of the MFA (February 17, 1948), James McClean purchased the painting "fifty to sixty-five years ago" in England.
Warren Collection—William Wilkins Warren Fund