- Museum number
Harnham Bridge; view from the bank of a river, houses on a three-arched bridge at r, part of a church visible beyond trees and meadow at left. 1820
- Production date
Height: 155 millimetres
Width: 229 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Harnham was a hamlet on the river Avon just west of Salisbury (now absorbed into the city); it lay at the foot of Harnham ridge, the crest of which was visible from Archdeacon Fisher's house in the cathedral close, and often painted by Constable. The present view shows the river from the garden of the Rose and Crown Inn in East Harnham, with Salisbury Cathedral rising in the distance to the left. The drawing formed the basis for an oil painting, formerly in the Werner collection, Luton Hoo (R20.54), which follows it closely, down to the swallows skimming over the water. The presence of the birds, marks the drawing out as a summer scene, and contributed to the dating of the drawing to 1820, rather than 1821, when Constable visited Salisbury in November.
On his return to London, Constable wrote to Fisher that 'My Salisbury sketches are much liked - that in the palace grounds - the bridges - & your house from the meadows [...] &c'. It has been assumed that this refers to painted oil sketches of Harnham Bridge, or Milford Bridge, the other such subject drawn in 1820, but no sketches of these bridges are currently known. In the Tate 1991 catalogue the authors observed that the oil of Harnham Bridge contained a number of small details not present in the drawing, and they felt this indicated the oil was probably worked on in large part on site. There is a precedent for an open-air oil being preceded by a detailed pencil drawing in the painting of Fen Lane from 1817 (R17.8 and Tate 1991, cat. 91).
The compilers of the 1991 Tate Gallery catalogue single out 1910-2-12-228 for special praise, associating it with words C.R.Leslie applied to Constable's art (meaning primarily his oils) during the years 1817-21, saying that it was 'never more perfect, perhaps never so perfect' ('Memoirs of the life of John Constable', 1951 ed., p. 72). The drawing of Harnham Bridge is seen as 'almost a demonstration of the full range the graphite pencil is capable of achieving' (Tate 1991, p. 448).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1976 Feb-May, London, Tate Gallery, 'Constable', no. 183
1991 June-Sep, London, Tate Gallery, 'Constable', no. 297
2006 March-June, Canberra, NG Australia, Constable: Impressions ...
2006 July-Oct, Wellington, Te Papa Tongarewa, Constable ...
2011 May-Sep, Salisbury & Sth Wiltshire Mus, Constable and Salisbury
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number