The Guardian explores Martin Gayford and Anne Lyles theory that these two portraits, which have been mis-attributed for some time, are of John Constables parents:
If Anne Lyles and Martin Gayford, co-curators of an exhibition on Constable’s portraits opening at the National Portrait Gallery tomorrow, are correct, the man was painted when Constable’s prosperous corn merchant father strongly disapproved of his son’s choice of career as a professional artist – perhaps explaining his intransigent expression. [ . . . ]
Lyles and Gayford’s theory is based on Constable’s letters and family documents, which they pored over, analysing technique, and the fact that the canvas for the mother’s portrait came from a London artist’s supplier he is known to have used at that time.
They believe the portraits date from around 1805, when Constable was 29 and a late starter still learning his trade. Like two tender tiny views of his parents’ fruit and vegetable gardens in Suffolk, they were among the pictures Constable kept with him all his life.
“I imagine the father barely having the patience to sit for him, snapping ‘Oh get on with it!’ – while his mother was the one person prepared to pose for endless hours for him. She was absolutely devoted to him, her letters to him are full of worries about whether he has got the right clothes and enough to eat,” Lyles said.