John Constable, Stonehenge, a watercolour over black chalk

Wiltshire, England, AD 1820-35

'The mysterious monument'

Constable visited Stonehenge in July 1820, where he made a sketch that was eventually worked up into a large finished watercolour for his last exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1836. This watercolour represents a middle stage in the process - it is squared for transfer to a larger sheet. The finished work (Victoria and Albert Museum, London) was captioned: 'the mysterious monument... standing remote on a bare and boundless heath, as much unconnected with the events of the past as it is with the uses of the present, carries you back beyond all historical records into the obscurity of a totally unknown period'.

The double rainbow was a recurrent motif in Constable's later works, but Constable wavered on its symbolic meaning. Sometimes he picked out specific symbols in his work (seeing a ruin, for example, as himself after the death of his wife), but at other times the nature that he observed was simply nature - a rainbow meaning no more than 'the exhilaration of the returning sun'.

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More information

Bibliography

L. Stainton, British landscape watercolours (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)

A. Wilton and A. Lyles, The great age of British Water (London, Royal Academy of Arts, and Munich, Prestel-Verlag, 1993)

Dimensions

Height: 168.000 mm
Width: 249.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1888-2-15-38

PDB8580

Gift of Miss Isabel Constable

Location

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