Stour Valley and Dedham Church
John Constable (English, 1776–1837)
55.6 x 77.8 cm (21 7/8 x 30 5/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Oil on canvas
Not On View
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.
1814, commissioned by Thomas Fitzhugh (b. 1770 - d. 1856) for his wife, Philadelphia Godfrey Fitzhugh (d. 1869), Plas Power, Denbighshire, Wales [see note 1]; probably until about 1895, by descent within the family [see note 2]. Probably about 1895/1900, purchased in England by James McLean (b. 1846 - d. 1920), New York [see note 3]; by descent to his daughter, Alice Throckmorton McLean (b. 1886 - d. 1968), New York; about 1948, sold by Alice McLean to John Mitchell (dealer), New York; 1948, sold by John 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." The view shown in the MFA painting is that of the valley from just outside the grounds of Old Hall, the Godfrey family estate. Constable executed a number of oil sketches and pencil drawings for this painting in the fall of 1814, the earliest (Leeds City Art Galleries, inv. no. 10/34) dated September 5. See Graham Reynolds, Constable's England (New York, 1983), p. 60, cat. no. 15, and ibid., The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable (New Haven and London, 1996), text vol., p. 205, cat. no. 15.1.
 The painting was probably dispersed around the time of the deaths of the couple's sons, Thomas Fitzhugh and Godfrey Fitzhugh, both in 1895.
 According to John Mitchell, in a letter 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