DETAIL: John CONSTABLE,  Great Britain 1776 � 1837  'Harwich Lighthouse' c.1820 oil on canvas Tate, London, gift of Maria Louisa Constable, Isabel Constable and Lionel Bicknell Constable in 1888 Tate, London 2005
David LUCAS | Old Sarum (second plate)

LUCAS, David, Artist
Great Britain 1802 – 1881
CONSTABLE, John, Artist
Great Britain 1776 – 1837
Old Sarum (second plate)
for English Landscape, 2nd edition, May 1833 1831-32
mezzotint, drypoint
undescribed progress proof (between 'b' and 1st state)
plate 18.0 (h) x 25.6 (w) cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, Felton Bequest in 1970
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The subject of this plate was, according to Constable, desolation.  He thought that ‘the present appearance of Old Sarum – wild, desolate, dreary – contrasts with its former greatness’; and that because of its ‘barren and deserted character’ the grander phenomena of nature were best suited to capture such a scene:

Sudden and abrupt appearance of light, thunder clouds … even conflicts of the elements, to heighten, if possible, the sentiment which belongs to a subject so awful and impressive (Beckett, Discourses, p. 24).

Nonetheless, he contrasted this ‘barren and desolate’ scene with its coexisting pastoral innocence, by placing a shepherd and his flock in the foreground.

Lucas may have begun working on this plate in the autumn of 1831, when Constable told him to keep it ‘clear, bright, and sharp, but don’t lose the solemnity’; but he did little work on it until 20 November 1832 (Beckett IV, pp. 358, 388). He based it on the drawing of this subject   and the oil sketch (Victoria and Albert Museum, London), both of 1829. Lucas made at least three progress proof variations before the published state.

C.R. Leslie suggested that Constable had not liked the first plate because he thought the ‘mounds and terraces were not marked with sufficient precision’, and had thus asked Lucas to engrave a fresh plate (Leslie (1843/45) 1951, p. 196). In the second plate Lucas increased the chiaroscuro and drama of the subject.

Heysen wrote: ‘I am particularly impressed with … “Old Sarum”.  The news of the … Old Sarum … excited me and you may be sure I shall await their arrival with impatience’ (Heysen, 1947?, NLA MS5073/1/2283); and

The second plate of the Old Sarum is absolutely magnificent – it excites me every time I have a ‘peep’. This subject has always appealed to me immensely and Lucas’s treatment comes up to a ‘red hot point’ – I think it also must have excited him tremendously – and this is a lovely print – quite complete – and so rich … (ibid., 23 February 1948, NLA MS 5073/1/5594).

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