After returning from his sketching tour of the Lake District in 1806, Constable painted at least ten oils based on his watercolours and drawings of the region, which he exhibited at the Royal Academy and the British Institution between 1807 and 1809. This work is possibly one of those oil paintings.
Charles Holmes, landscape painter, author of several books on Constable and Director of the National Gallery, London (1916–28), identified this scene as Derwentwater and Skiddaw viewed from the foot of Cat Bells; but a local resident subsequently suggested that the distant heights areRowling End, Causey Pike and Grisedale (Tate 1976, p. 67). In 1996 Graham Reynolds, author of Constable’s catalogue raisonné and former Keeper of the Constable collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, noted that ‘Keswick Lake’ is an unusual name, but the village of Keswick stands on the banks of a lake, Derwentwater, which is what Constable evidently intended, and that the view is from the foot of Cat Bells.
The painting has been the subject of controversy. Holmes, who owned the work in 1902, considered it to be authentic. In 1979, however, Robert Hoozee suggested that the painting might not be by Constable, but by his son, Lionel. Reynolds rejected Hoozee’s doubts about this painting and listed it as likely to be authentic. Given that in 1807 Constable was still developing his personal approach to art, it is difficult to be definite about his personal style at this time – especially since his other Lake District oils are unavailable for comparison.
Keswick, Lake is as likely as not to be a genuine early work by John Constable.