Update: Another Constable ‘Summerland’ proof!

I admitted in my original article on David Lucas’s progress proofs for Constable’s ‘A Summerland’ that my attempt to record all of the impressions for this composition was doomed to amendment. I hardly suspected that it would require amending quite so frequently. Here is yet another proof; the third to appear this year. I haven’t yet managed to finish writing up the previous two! I have updated the original account to include this in the sequence.


David Lucas after John Constable
A Summerland, 1829
Mezzotint, printed in black ink on paper
Image, 150 x 224 mm, on plate 177 x 251
Halls auctioneers, Shrewsbury, 18 September 2019, lot 42


This impression appeared at Hall’s auctioneers, Shrewsbury on 18 September 2019, lot 42.


As bought, it was framed in a slim black moulding with gilt detail, sealed within in a rigid card support and mat.



There are various labels and inscriptions on the backboard, including, on the original backing paper, the label of Leggatt Brothers, 62 Cheapside and 30 St James Street, London inscribed in ink ‘A Summerland/ after J Constable RA by D Lucas/ Engravers Proof’.



Above is a page from the catalogue of the sale of English prints at Sotheby’s 14 January 1971, lot 23 ‘A Summerland, by D Lucas (W.15; S.100), mezzotint, engraver’s proof before all letters, foxed, framed. (150 by 228 mm)’.



The backboard is also inscribed three times ‘124’, ?presumably a collection number. The inside of the wooded backboard is inscribed in pencil ‘57891’, possibly a Leggatt’s stock number.



The whole presentation is possibly as supplied by Leggatt’s. A number sticker; ‘35’ is affixed to the glass lower left; possibly also a collection number.


The paper support is in clean, flat condition unmarked except for two dark smuts along the top edge, a 5 mm ring mark in the centre of the sky and a faint dark smudge in the bright cloud to the right. Otherwise this is a scintillating impression, showing extraordinary clarity and crispness of detail. Superbly inked and showing no sign whatsoever of abrasion or scuffing.


This impression is an example of the final state before lettering and publication. The Hon Andrew Shirley’s definitive 1930 catalogue of the ‘Mezzotints of David Lucas after John Constable’, where ‘A Summerland’ is no.10, defines several distinct states e-h, all identical in terms of the image, except for variations in the finish of the edges.


The image itself first achieves its final form in an impression at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (P1384R), which in my complete collation is numbered d (vii).


13 Fitzwilliam P1384-R
David Lucas after John Constable A Summerland, 1829 Mezzotint, printed in black ink on paper Image, 150 x 224 mm, on plate 177 x 251 Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, P1384-R, Image taken by David Hill, and reproduced by courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum


Shirley does not seem to have been aware of that example, so the first examples that he cites as his state (e) are from Boston Museum of Fine Art and the British Museum. The latter can be identified as BM 1846,0130.15.


868953001 BMe
David Lucas after John Constable A Summerland, 1829 Mezzotint, printed in black ink on paper Image, 150 x 224 mm, on plate 177 x 251 British Museum, London, (1846,0130.15) Image courtesy of the British Museum and ©Trustees of the British Museum


It is worth some consideration whether the variations to the edge of the image are as much to do with variations in individual impressions – since each print is struck individually by hand – caused, for example by the wiping of the plate margins which must perforce be as spotless as possible.


David Lucas after John Constable
A Summerland, 1829
Mezzotint, printed in black ink on paper
Image, 150 x 224 mm, on plate 177 x 251
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, P.141.1954
Image taken by David Hill and reproduced by courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum


Nonetheless I have attempted to insert this particular example into Shirley’s sequence. It appears identical with an impression at the Fitzwilliam Museum, P141.1954, which again does not seem to have been known to Shirley, but which is closest, albeit not quite identical to Shirley’s state g, identified as that at the Metropolitan Museum, New York 33.25.9.


Met 33.25.9
David Lucas after John Constable A Summerland, 1829 Mezzotint, printed in black ink on paper Image, 150 x 224 mm, on plate 177 x 251 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (33.25.9) Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Here and in the Fitzwilliam impression the bottom edge is completely tidy. Both the Fitzwilliam and Metropolitan Museum impressions are equally finely detailed on india paper.


Halls 2019 Summerland – detail of plough team


Here there are [at least] two artefacts that are unique to this impression. The first is a white mark on the ground below the horse, possibly caused by a fleck of paper on the plate, and the second is the lack of white highlight (the glint on the ploughshare) below the plough and a certain lack of detail to the plough wheels and traces in the same area. This appears to be the result of insufficient wiping of the plate in this area.


Let me know of any others, and I will add them to the list!






Further Constable ‘Summerland’ proofs #2


David Lucas after John Constable,
The Summerland, 1829
Mezzotint, printed in black ink on heavyweight, stiff, off-white [oatmeal], textured, wove rag paper
Image, 150 x 226 mm, on plate 175 x 251, on sheet cut to 215 x 290 mm
Inscribed in plate, lower right [indistinct] ‘1829 D Lucas’, and inscribed in graphite top right ‘3’, in centre of lower margin, partly trimmed, ‘7’, and on verso, towards right, ‘1141’.
This article  extends the consideration of two proofs of the print by David Lucas and John Constable of  the artist’s composition of  ‘A Summerland’ sold at Chiswick auctions on 27 June 2019, together with a further proof from the series of ‘English Landscape Scenery’ of ‘Willy Lott’s Cottage’.

To start with the first new ‘Summerland’ proof. At the sale on 27 June 2019 the catalogue identified this as state 10e as given in Andrew Shirley’s superb book Mezzotints by David Lucas after John Constable, published in 1930. This turns out to be wrong. It is, rather, the same state, a little more lightly inked, as an impression at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, P139.1954. This I numbered (V) amongst the many variants of Shirley’s state d listed in the Sublimesites.co article ‘John Constable, David Lucas and ‘A Summerland’: Part #3 – The Progress Proofs [d]‘, which first appeared on 22 October 2018. I have now updated the original article to include reference to this new example.

The paper is robust and in fundamentally good condition. There is some faint mottling and spotting, but nothing at all obvious or distracting. The general brightness is perhaps somewhat diminished by surface dirt, but the original colour of the paper was oatmeal, and mellow-toned, even when new. There are patches on the verso where the original colour is well presented. The image itself is well-inked and richly toned. A crease in the paper extends vertically into the image from the top edge approx. 1/3 from the left.

Verso of Impression of ‘The Summerland’ sold Chiswick Auctions, London, 27 June 2019, lot 372
With part of Henry Dawe’s mezzotint after Michael William Sharpe (1777-1840) entitled ‘The Bee’s Wing’, published 1 June 1824

The crease was present prior to printing, for it represents the plate line of an image on the verso. Lucas printed this proof onto the verso of a part sheet recycled from a (presumably discarded) impression of a mezzotint by Henry Dawe (1790-1848) of a painting by Michael William Sharpe (1777-1840) entitled ‘The Bee’s Wing’, published 1 June 1824.

Henry Dawe after Michael William Sharpe
The Bee’s Wing, 1824
Mezzotint, 261 x 211 mm, published 1 June 1824
Image courtesy of the Wellcome Collection
A man sits by a table and examines a full glass of wine that he holds to the light. Mezzotint by H. Dawe, c. 1824, after M. W. Sharp. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

The subject is an inebriated gentleman peering closely into a glass of wine. Quite what were the circumstances of Lucas using Dawes’s print in this way are unknown, but he appears to have quartered an impression and used other side of the top right corner to try an impression of ‘A Summerland’.

Dawe’s print is fine work in the mezzotint medium in which David Lucas was intending to make his reputation and would have been a fine example to study. Lucas’s principal interest, however, appears to have been in the paper. When one works through the series of ‘Summerland’ trial proofs it becomes apparent that Lucas and Constable tried a very wide variety of papers. There are hardly two the same. Some are much yellower, but most are more yielding to the pressure of the plate, giving a smooth finish to the surface of the print. In this case the paper is tough enough to have resisted the press. The plate impression is shallow, and there is still good texture to the surface within the plate margins. Constable seems to have been looking for a paper that would yield sufficiently to take maximum detail and sensitivity of tone, but stout enough to have character. It is worth observing that another example, [c (i) – the occasion of these articles] was trialled on an impracticably soft paper and that of another, near contemporary proof of ‘Willy Lott’s House’ (see above, to be discussed later) was trialled on a laid paper.


This new impression compares most closely to two impressions at the Fitzwilliam Museum (P.139.1954 and P.140.1954). These are very close and quite difficult to separate, but the most obvious differences are that the highlights across the trees and hedgerow in the middle distance have been brightened, as has the white horse; the signature lower right is obscured, the cumulus clouds to the right have been smoothed and lightened and the top edge is indistinct in the latter.


Of the two, the new impression is closer, perhaps, to P.139.1954. It lacks the new highlights across the middle distance, and the brightened white horse. The sky indeed is perhaps less detailed, particularly in the principal crepuscular ray, and the dark cloud to the top right. In fact one might be inclined to suspect a slightly anterior position in the sequence, except for the fact that the new impression has the same indistinct top edge as P.140.1954.


It is possible that these relatively slight differences in detail between the new impression and P.139.1954 are insufficient to conclusively separate them out into different states. The apparent differences in the sky might be accounted for by variations in printing. In an entirely artisanal process such as this each impression is inked to a slightly different degree, there being so many variables, such as the dampness of the paper, the ambient temperature, the consistency of the ink, the pressure of the press. In any case it is clear that Lucas and Constable were here experimenting with different papers. P.139.1954 is printed on a stiff, heavy, off-white watercolour paper, the present example on a thick oatmeal wove, and P.140.1954 on a distinctly yellow, stiff watercolour paper. Of the three, my judgement would be that the colour is better in the first two, but the last takes the ink slightly more crisply, giving sharper, brighter lights.