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Mezzotint, 1829, after John Constable (1776-1837)
Given by an anonymous donor 1954
After Constable's only large-scale oil painting of a ruin, the remains of a medieval castle on the Thames estuary. Lucas produced this print the year that he and Constable started working together to produce plates for Constable's book English Landscape Scenery, the older artist being attracted to mezzotint for its capacity to render the dramatic light effects of his paintings. This is a proof impression pulled from the plate before it was completed. Lucas not only evokes a landscape full of the movement of wind, clouds and sea, but also a mood of desolation, which has often been interpreted as symbolising Constable's darkened state of mind after the untimely death of his wife in 1828.
Constable and Lucas had a very intense working relationship, with the two artists exchanging reams of letters in which Constable was sometimes overly dramatic in his criticisms of Lucas's efforts (for example, a quotation from a letter of December 1831: 'I am now writing with the two proofs before me and I frankly tell you I could burst into tears - never was there such a wreck. Do not touch the plate again - it is not worth while.'). The Fitzwilliam Museum is home to the world's most extensive collection of proof impressions touched by Constable, as well as Lucas's engraving tools and the correspondence between the two men, the bulk of which were given in 1910 by the first honorary keeper of prints, John Charrington.