John Constable sketches found among box of dusty drawings by son of playwright during clearout

John Constable sketches found among box of dusty drawings by son of playwright during clearout

They are thought to be Constable’s early thoughts in illustrating the scene of Jaques and the Wounded Stag from Shakespeare’s As You Like It. He produced various designs as one of the artists commissioned to illustrate The Seven Ages of Shakespeare, a compendium published in 1840.

The drawings are small – just 2½ x 3¼ inches (83 x 64 mm) and 1 13/16 x 3 inches (77 x 47 mm) respectively.

Zack said: “What’s amazing is that, in a few pen-and-ink marks with brown wash, he creates the light and shade of a composition. You can see that he did it quickly and drew a little frame around it… It shows his brilliance – how quickly they were done, but also how he was able to create a real composition in a tiny format.”

Asked how unusual it is to find previously-unknown Constable sketches, she said: “They are very scarce.”

Fry, who died in 2005 aged 97, made his name in the 1940s with The Lady’s Not for Burning and Venus Observed. As one of the foremost playwrights of the English stage, his productions drew great actors, including Laurence Olivier.

The drawings will be offered in the forthcoming British & European Fine Art sale on March 6 at Chiswick Auctions. Believed to have been bought in 1951 for £3, they are estimated to fetch between £5,000 and £8,000 each.      

Tam Fry, who chairs the National Obesity Forum, joked: “{My father] would have said ‘they are now going to be the property of people who really do value the items’… [He] had a great sense of humour. He would have said, ‘what a pity my pig-ignorant son didn’t understand [them]’. He would have found that very amusing.”

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