fig. 1 
John Constable

In the late summer of 1816, the artist John Constable was invited by his patron and friend, Major General Francis Slater Rebow, to paint a small landscape depicting the ‘Chinese Temple’ fishing lodge in the woods behind the Rebow estate Alresford Hall (fig. 1).1 Major Francis Slater (1770–1845) assumed the Rebow name and arms by royal licence when in 1796 he married Mary Hester Rebow (c. 1776–1834), the heiress to Wivenhoe Park and Alresford Hall. The Rebows were a distinguished East Anglian family of Huguenot descent. For details of the family and its properties, see R. Feesey, A History of Wivenhoe Park: The House and Grounds, Colchester, Essex, 1963; N. Butler, The Story of Wivenhoe, Wivenhoe, Essex, 1989, pp. 31–40, 61–81; T. Gray, ‘Wivenhoe Park: History and Natural History’, in Constable and Wivenhoe Park: Reality and Vision, eds J. Clarkson & N. Cox, Colchester, Essex, 2000, pp. 62–5. For ‘The Quarters’ behind Alresford Hall, see G. Reynolds, The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, New Haven, 1996, text vol., no. 16.30, p. 221; U. Hoff, European Paintings before 1800 in the National Gallery of Victoria, 4th edn, Melbourne, 1995, pp. 60–1. The present article is an extended version of my entry in European Masterpieces: Six Centuries of Paintings from the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia (exh. cat.), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2000, cat. no. 58. A larger companion picture, Wivenhoe Park, Essex (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC), was also part of the commission (fig. 2),2See G. Reynolds, The Later Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, New Haven, 1984, text vol., no. 17.4, pp. 4–5. This work was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1817 under the title ‘Wivenhoe Park, Essex, the Seat of Major-General Rebow’. as the artist explained to his fiancée, Maria Bicknell, in a famous letter dated 21 August 1816: 

My dearest Love, 

… I am going to paint two small Landscapes for the General, views[,] one in the park of the house & a beautifull wood and peice of water, and another a scene in a wood with a beautifull little fishing house, where the young Lady (who is the heroine of all these scenes) goes occasionally to angle.3John Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 21 August 1816, in John Constable’s Correspondence, vol. II, ed. R. B. Beckett, Ipswich, 1964, p. 196. All quotations from Constable’s correspondence retain the artist’s original spelling and emphases. 

The ‘young Lady’ mentioned in the letter was the Major General’s daughter, Mary Rebow, whose portrait (present whereabouts unknown) Constable had painted four years earlier in 1812 when she was a ‘lively’ seven-year-old.4 Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 6 September 1812, in Beckett, vol. II, p. 84: ‘I am going to morrow to stay a few days at General Rebow’s near Colchester, to paint his little girl (an only child about seven years old)’. On 22 September he wrote again: ‘My little subject was so lively that I had unusual trouble, but I succeeded entirely to the satisfaction of the General & Mrs Rebow’ (p. 85). P. R. Gifford, ‘The Vanished Rebows: A North Essex Family’, East Anglian Magazine, vol. 31, no. 4, February 1972, p. 144, notes that the portrait was probably included in the 1908 sale of the Rebow portraits. That picture had marked the beginning of the artist’s long association with this East Anglian landowning family, an association that swiftly developed into respect and liking on both sides. Indeed, Constable’s letters to Maria at the time reveal his pleasure in the Rebows’ acknowledgement of him as a ‘friend’ rather than an employee: 

I was treated with the greatest politeness and the General told me [he] regretted my departure, and should always consider me a friend and be glad to see me … [the Rev. Walter Driffield] told me how much the Rebows were pleased with my picture – and the General said to him that much as I had gratified him as an artist he was as much pleased with me as a gentleman and a man. Now I am sure my dear Maria you will think me the greatest egotist in the world but … you desired me to write to you without reserve.5Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 22 September 1812, in Beckett, vol. II, pp. 85–6. For Constable’s later description of General Rebow as ‘an old friend of my father’s, from whom I had always received patronage’, see Constable, letter to C. R. Leslie, 16 August 1833, in Beckett, vol. III, p. 105. As Constable’s father was regarded by his contemporaries as ‘a man of fortune and a miller … [who] lives in the style of a country squire’, his friendship with the Rebows is not surprising (see A. F. J. Brown, Essex People 1750–1900: From Their Diaries, Memoirs and Letters, Essex Record Office Publications, no. 59, Chelmsford, Essex, 1972, p. 32). The Rev. Walter Wren Driffield, Rector of Erwarton, Suffolk, and Southchurch, Essex, but then living at the Vicarage, Feering, was another old friend of Constable’s father; Driffield was also distantly related to the Rebow family, and often visited Wivenhoe Park (see Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 22 September 1812, in Beckett, vol. II, p. 85). 

The possibility of further portraits – depicting ‘the General & his Lady’ – was discussed with Constable,6Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 6 September 1812, in Beckett, vol. II, p. 84. but this commission appears to have been halted by the Major General’s return soon afterwards to active duty, commanding the Household Brigade in Portugal. In fact, Rebow’s posting to the Peninsular War would keep him out of the country until the end of the campaign.7For Major General Rebow’s military career, see G. O. Rickword, ‘Major-General Francis Slater Rebow, of Wivenhoe Park, Colchester: His Friendship with John Constable, R.A.’, Essex Review, vol. LIII, no. 209, January 1944, pp. 87–9; Butler, pp. 61–2. 

It was not until 1816 that Constable returned to Wivenhoe Park, but this time on his own initiative rather than by invitation. The artist had been spending increasingly long periods of time in his home county of Suffolk, in part because of the declining health of his father but also because of his growing desire to work directly from nature. Following a visit to his friend the Rev. Walter Driffield, at the Vicarage, Feering, Constable called in at Wivenhoe on 27 July, and made a sketch of some men fishing with a net on one of the lakes (Victoria and Albert Museum, London).8See Reynolds, Early Paintings and Drawings, text vol., no. 16.19, p. 219; plate vol., pl. 1283. In a letter to Maria he stressed that ‘nothing could have been more friendly than my reception’,9Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 28 July 1816, in Beckett, vol. II, p. 188. and the welcome he received clearly encouraged him to return a few weeks later for a weekend of sketching. Once again, his detailed correspondence with Maria Bicknell allows us to reconstruct Constable’s thoughts and actions during his sojourn at Wivenhoe. 

In his letter of 21 August to Maria, Constable wrote: 

I returned from my very pleasant visit at General Rebow’s on Monday … The General and Mrs. Rebow are determined to be of some service to me and at any rate their attentions are agreable … I am going there again on Monday and shall stay, a week there in all probability … 

They wish me to take my own time about [the two small landscapes commissioned by the Rebows] – but he will pay me for them when I please, as he tells me he understands from old Driffeild [sic] that we may soon want a little ready money … I am next year to paint another picture of their little girl, with her donkey, for their house in town (Gloster Place [sic]). This my love is just such a commission as can be of real service to us. 

I am getting on as well as I can with my own pictures but these little things of the General’s … will detain here a week or two longer than I could have hoped – and it would be a pity not to do as well as I can with what I have going on here for a few days longer more or less.10Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 21 August 1816, in Beckett, vol. II, pp. 196–7. 

Constable’s close relationship with his patrons, and their kind interest in his impending marriage, are vividly conveyed in this account, as is the artist’s determination to make the most of the commission. In a progress report written to Maria the following week, it becomes clear that Constable is even prepared to accommodate his friends’ wish that he include as many recognisable elements as possible in his view of Wivenhoe Park, in spite of the ensuing compositional difficulties: 

My dearest Love, 

… I have been here since Monday and am as happy as I can be away from you – nothing can exceed the kindness of the General and his Lady – they make me indeed quite at home 

 

I am going on very well with my pictures for them – the park is the most forward. The great difficulty has been to get so much in as they wanted to make them acquainted with the scene. On my left is a grotto with some elms, at the head of a peice of water – in the centre is the house over a beautifull wood and very far to the right is a deer house, which it was necessary to add, so that my view comprehended too many degrees. But to day I have got over the difficulty, and begin to like it myself. I think however I shall make a larger picture from what I am now about … 

 

I shall be here at least a week longer … 

 

[Postscript:] I am writing this in a most magnificent drawing room looking over Colchester and a beautifull evening – and hourly attended by a little dear girl whom I once painted … 

 

This house is full of dogs, and some of them very great beauties. I live in the park and Mrs Rebow says I am very unsociable. We are now going a walk with the little lady. Adieu.11Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 30 August 1816, in Beckett, vol. II, pp. 198–9. Reynolds, Later Paintings and Drawings, text vol., p. 4, notes that Constable eventually solved the ‘great difficulty’ in his composition by adding a strip of canvas at either side of the painting. Beckett originally transcribed the word degrees (in the second paragraph of the extract) as ?distances, but degrees is preferred by Clarkson (J. Clarkson, ‘”A Walk with the Little Lady”: Exploring Wivenhoe Park’, in Clarkson & Cox, pp. 15, 21) and by Rosenthal (M. Rosenthal, ‘Writing Wivenhoe Park’, in Clarkson & Cox, p. 33). For a reproduction of the letter itself, see Clarkson & Cox, p. [3]. 

 

In its final form, Constable’s panoramic view of Wivenhoe Park includes a number of minor details that gradually emerge as one examines the painting – or, to use Constable’s phrase, as one becomes ‘acquainted with the scene’. The significance of many of these features – among them the girl in the donkey cart or the small figure surrounded by dogs at the lake’s edge – would have been fully appreciated only by the Rebows and their intimates. Indeed, as Clarkson has emphasised in his recent study of the painting: 

It requires prior knowledge on the part of the viewer to identify the spot of red and white on the left of the picture as the Rebows’ daughter driving her donkey cart. Similarly some prior knowledge of the deer house is required in order to recognise it from its minimal representation on the right.12Clarkson, ‘A Walk with the Little Lady’, p. 18. 

Interestingly, this personal dimension is not apparent in Constable’s previous ‘portraits’ of country houses, such as Old Hall, East Bergholt, 1801 (private collection),13See Reynolds, Early Paintings and Drawings, text vol., no. 01.1, p. 31; plate vol., pl. 112. or Malvern Hall from the Lake, 1809 (Tate Gallery, London).14 ibid., text vol., no. 09.17, pp. 131–2; plate vol., pl. 751. The latter work also depicts a house seen from across a stretch of ornamental water, but lacks the numerous small incidents that enliven the later Wivenhoe landscape. 

Constable’s Wivenhoe Park is widely recognized as an important work in the artist’s career. Produced at the time when he was beginning to execute finished pictures largely in the open air and before the motif itself, this vigorous, informal portrayal of the estate embodies the artist’s personal conception of ‘natural painture’ (by which he meant the ‘pure and unaffected representation’ of nature).15Constable, letter to John Dunthorne, 29 May 1802, in Beckett, vol. II, p. 32. Far less scholarly attention, however, has focused on the smaller companion picture: the second of the two ‘views’ commissioned by the Rebows, which depicts the ‘little fishing house’ (now known as ‘The Quarters’) behind Alresford Hall.16M. Girouard, ‘Living in a Folly’, Country Life, vol. CXXIV, no. 3225, 6 November 1958, p. 1040, notes that the name is said to date from the Civil War period, when Cromwell quartered his troops in this area. For the suggestion that the original cottage on the site was used as servants’ quarters, see J. Hedges, Alresford 1900–2000: A Century of Village Life in Postcards and Photographs, Alresford, Essex, 2000, p. 26. At first glance, the paintings would appear to have been executed as a study in contrasts: Wivenhoe Park is a sweeping panorama, full of life and movement, beneath a dramatic, cloud-filled sky. ‘The Quarters’ behind Alresford Hall is half the size, and depicts a single building enclosed by trees – a hushed and secluded scene seemingly devoid of people. Not surprisingly, the straightforward, frontal presentation of the fishing pavilion has been viewed by some writers as ‘more conventional’ than the bold, ‘unaffected’ naturalism of Wivenhoe Park (in which the parkland dominates the distant, partly obscured house).17See, for example, M. Cormack, Constable, Cambridge, 1986, pp. 97, 99. However, a careful comparison of the two works reveals a subtle but significant correspondence. 

The choice of subject matter in the two pictures has in common its focus on those areas of the Rebow estates that had undergone formal landscaping and ‘improvement’ during the previous generation. In the late 1770s, Major General Rebow’s father-in-law, Colonel Isaac Martin Rebow, had employed the landscape architect Richard Woods to undertake extensive alterations and additions to the parkland surrounding the house at Wivenhoe. The landscaping works included the construction of two lakes, a lock and rustic arch, a brick bridge with an oak balustrade, and coach roads; the sowing of lawns; and substantial plantings of trees (spruce, larch, pine, cypress, cedars and laurel)18Richard Woods, estimates for building works at Wivenhoe Park, Isaac Martin Rebow (1731–1781) papers, box 2, Rebow Family Papers, Essex County Record Office (Colchester Branch), Acc. C47; see also Feesey, pp. 14–18. The family’s pride in these various ‘improvements’ is most clearly revealed in a letter written by the Colonel’s wife, Mary, in which she declares: 

Mr Woods… told me he had put everything in such a train that he should not have occasion to come down any more until October, when he should just beautify and put the finishing touches to one of the most pleasing pictures in England.19Mary Rebow, letter to Isaac Martin Rebow, 26 July 1778, cited in Brown, p. 66. 

These same ‘picturesque’ elements would be carefully incorporated in Constable’s Wivenhoe Park some four decades later. 

The landscaped park would become the most famous aspect of the Wivenhoe estate, a symbol of the Rebow family’s stature. As one nineteenth-century history of Essex stated: 

The present mansion of Wyvenhoe Park … stands in the midst of one of those fine old deer parks which have been justly described as the pride and ornament of our land, whose venerable … trees represent the stability of the old families whose homes they surround … From the principal entrance is a carriage drive, which, in its gradual descent past a lake on the left, brings the house into view through an opening in a row of tall and venerable trees fringing the margin of a broad sheet of water … This park … is richly clothed with timber; and its forestal aspect and undulations towards the western valley, contrasting with the smooth and open lawn-like lands … present a pleasant rural picture.20D. W. Coller, The People’s History of Essex, Comprising a Narrative of Public and Political Events in the County, Chelmsford, Essex, 1861, pp. 565–6. 

 

Colonel Rebow also employed Woods to convert an old cottage on the Alresford estate, only a few kilometres from Wivenhoe, into a little fishing house designed in the fashionable chinoiserie style. Contemporary estimates ‘for Building the Chinese Temple’ refer to ‘the Banqueting room, ante room & passage’ as well as ‘Chinese railing round ye galery & under ye 2 side windows’ (fig. 3).21Richard Woods, estimates for building works at Alresford Hall, Isaac Martin Rebow (1731–1781) papers, box 2. The construction of Woods’s chinoiserie fishing house had been instigated by Thomas Martin, the owner of Alresford Hall, and the uncle and father-in-law of Colonel Rebow. Rebow’s wife, Mary (née Martin), inherited the estate on Thomas Martin’s death in 1775, and Colonel Rebow completed the project. The Martin family had derived its wealth from the East India Company, a fact that possibly explains the choice of an exotic oriental style for the fishing pavilion. See F. Cowell, ‘Richard Woods (?1716–93): A Preliminary Account’, Garden History, vol. 14, no. 2, Autumn 1986, pp. 109–14; Hedges, p. 24. During the mid eighteenth century, Chinese garden pavilions were frequently placed beside or over water, where they were used for fishing, boating, or informal gatherings.22See P. Connor, Oriental Architecture in the West, London, 1979, pp. 68–73. Such was the case with the ‘Chinese Temple’ at Alresford Hall, as Colonel Rebow’s wife makes clear in her correspondence. Shortly after the completion of the building, she wrote: It was a smoking hot day again yesterday, and of course delightful at Alresford, Miss Whalley and her brother went with us and they were all prodigiously pleased and charmed with the place’.23Mary Rebow, letter to Isaac Martin Rebow, 17 July 1778, in Brown, p. 65.

It is understandable that a favourite retreat like the little Chinese fishing pavilion should be selected by the Rebows as a fit subject for Constable’s brush. The finished painting, however, gives little indication of the sociable pastimes enjoyed at this site. Instead, the artist is more interested in the dramatic contrast between what Girouard calls the ‘exquisite and enchanting artificiality’ of the white oriental pavilion,24Girouard, p. 1041. During 1816 Constable depicted on more than one occasion a picturesque building flanked by trees, as, for example, in the drawing The Octagonal House, Putney Heath (private collection) (see Reynolds, Early Paintings and Drawings, text vol., no. 16.26, p. 220; plate vol., pl. 1288). and the rich tones of the surrounding English woodland. The closely observed details (the lilies on the still waters, the skimming swallows) and the play of light across the scene convey not only the season, but the time of day: a late summer’s afternoon. This careful naturalism, which also infuses the Wivenhoe Park picture, reflects one of the principles of Constable’s art, which he would later describe as the ‘chiar’oscuro of nature’, meaning both ‘the influence of light and shadow upon Landscape’, and the use of these elements as an expressive device to convey ‘the day, the hour, the sunshine and the shade’.25Constable, quoted in A. Shirley, The Published Mezzotints of John Constable, R.A. (1930), cited in I. Fleming-Williams, Constable and His Drawings, London, 1990, p. 111. 

The artist also used variations of tone to bring into prominence certain features, while other aspects of the composition remain partly concealed.26Fleming-Williams, p. 111, suggests that this treatment of detail mimics actual visual experience: ‘[P]arts are seen at a glance, others do not initially register’. Like its companion picture, Constable’s depiction of the fishing house at Alresford Hall demands that the viewer take some time to become ‘acquainted with the scene’. Thus, while some forms (such as the white Chinese Temple against the dark woods, or the sunlit grass and lawn roller) stand out strongly, other forms (like the darker roof of the ancient dovecote or the bridge railing in the right foreground) require further study before they come into focus. This is certainly the case with the two small figures standing on the path between the trees leading down to the fishing pavilion, but these shadowy human presences should not be dismissed too readily (fig. 4). If one compares Constable’s finished picture with its pencil preparatory study (Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro) (fig. 5),27 See Reynolds, Early Paintings and Drawings, text vol., no. 16.29, p. 221. it can be seen that the artist subtly ‘opened up’ the pathway in the painting, using dappled light to draw the viewer’s eye between the trees, so that one encounters first the dark figure and then the more distant figure in red. 

As the painting was expressly intended as a souvenir of the ‘beautifull little fishing house, where the young Lady (who is the heroine of all these scenes) goes occasionally to angle’, and as Mary Rebow appeared in a red cloak in the companion picture, Wivenhoe Park,28See Reynolds, Later Paintings and Drawings, text vol., no. 17.4, p.4. it is tempting to identify the distant red figure in ‘The Quarters’ as the Rebows’ daughter. The small figures on the path also give new meaning to the open door at the centre of the pavilion, leading onto the gallery. The occupants of the fishing pavilion have only recently left or are just now returning to their summer refuge. 

Constable’s studies and letters provide some insights into the Melbourne picture’s execution. The existence of the elaborate pencil sketch, and a grid of pencil lines underlying the finished work, suggest that the artist carefully prepared the spatial construction and details of the composition before he commenced painting.29Infrared reflectographs of the painting reveal a fine grid of five intersecting pencil lines. I would like to thank Michael Varcoe-Cocks and the Conservation Department of the National Gallery of Victoria for giving me access to this material. S. Cove, ‘Constable’s Oil Painting Materials and Techniques’, in Constable (exh. cat.), by L. Parris & I. Fleming- Williams, Tate Gallery, London, 1991, pp. 508–9, provides other examples of Constable’s use of grids. However, the small size of the canvas, combined with Constable’s comment that ‘I live in the park and Mrs Rebow says I am very unsociable’, have led most scholars to assume that ‘The Quarters’ was partly or wholly completed in the open air, before the motif.30 See, for example, M. Kitson, ‘Exhibition Reviews: London, Constable at the Tate’, Burlington Magazine, vol. CXXXIII, no. 1061, August 1991, pp. 559–60. But while Wivenhoe Park was definitely painted during the short period of time that Constable stayed with the Rebows, the correspondence is less precise about the smaller work. In a letter to Maria dated 15 September 1816, in which Constable apologises for suggesting they postpone their marriage, he adds: 

I was fully anxious to be with you – but I had just received a letter requesting me to paint the portrait of one old clergyman and another and to commence upon them immediately – and as I must be at General Rebow’s on Tuesday to finish there … 

 

I have declined the portraits, and one of the paintings for the General [presumably a reference to a delay in completing ‘The Quarters’], & shall work as fast as I can here.31 Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 15 September 1816, in Beckett, vol. II, pp. 203–4. 

 

Four days later, Constable wrote again: ‘I have compleated my view of the Park for General Rebow’.32Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 19 September 1816, in Beckett, vol. II, p. 206. No mention is made of the companion picture, so it is possible that ‘The Quarters’ was not finished until a later date. Certainly, the continuing friendship between the artist and the Rebow family gave numerous opportunities for him to present the work to his patrons.33For the ongoing association between Constable and the Rebows, see M. Sommerlad, Wivenhoe Park and John Constable, Colchester, Essex, 1984. 

The two Rebow pictures stand as testimony to Constable’s preference for personally identifying with a particular location. He returned to Wivenhoe to sketch on at least one more occasion,34See Sommerlad, p. 16. and his sympathetic response to the landscape at both Wivenhoe and Alresford Hall is evident in the two commissioned views. Although the artist once declared ‘[A] gentleman’s park – is my aversion. It is not beauty because it is not nature’,35Constable, quoted by G. Reynolds, John Constable (exh. cat.), Isetan Museum of Art, Tokyo, 1986, cat. no. 19, p. 153. his close association with the Rebow family, and his appreciation of the natural features of the Rebow estates, meant that Wivenhoe Park and ‘The Quarters’ behind Alresford Hall would be the exception to this rule. 

 

Alison Inglis, School of Fine Arts, Classical Studies and Archaeology, The University of Melbourne (in 2001).

 

Acknowledgements

I would like to acknowledge the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven; the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art, London; and the Arts Faculty at the University of Melbourne, whose generous support enabled me to undertake the research for this article. 

 

Notes

1     Major Francis Slater (1770–1845) assumed the Rebow name and arms by royal licence when in 1796 he married Mary Hester Rebow (c. 1776–1834), the heiress to Wivenhoe Park and Alresford Hall. The Rebows were a distinguished East Anglian family of Huguenot descent. For details of the family and its properties, see R. Feesey, A History of Wivenhoe Park: The House and Grounds, Colchester, Essex, 1963; N. Butler, The Story of Wivenhoe, Wivenhoe, Essex, 1989, pp. 31–40, 61–81; T. Gray, ‘Wivenhoe Park: History and Natural History’, in Constable and Wivenhoe Park: Reality and Vision, eds J. Clarkson & N. Cox, Colchester, Essex, 2000, pp. 62–5. For ‘The Quarters’ behind Alresford Hall, see G. Reynolds, The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, New Haven, 1996, text vol., no. 16.30, p. 221; U. Hoff, European Paintings before 1800 in the National Gallery of Victoria, 4th edn, Melbourne, 1995, pp. 60–1. The present article is an extended version of my entry in European Masterpieces: Six Centuries of Paintings from the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia (exh. cat.), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2000, cat. no. 58. 

2     See G. Reynolds, The Later Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, New Haven, 1984, text vol., no. 17.4, pp. 4–5. This work was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1817 under the title ‘Wivenhoe Park, Essex, the Seat of Major-General Rebow’. 

3     John Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 21 August 1816, in John Constable’s Correspondence, vol. II, ed. R. B. Beckett, Ipswich, 1964, p. 196. All quotations from Constable’s correspondence retain the artist’s original spelling and emphases. 

4     Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 6 September 1812, in Beckett, vol. II, p. 84: ‘I am going to morrow to stay a few days at General Rebow’s near Colchester, to paint his little girl (an only child about seven years old)’. On 22 September he wrote again: ‘My little subject was so lively that I had unusual trouble, but I succeeded entirely to the satisfaction of the General & Mrs Rebow’ (p. 85). P. R. Gifford, ‘The Vanished Rebows: A North Essex Family’, East Anglian Magazine, vol. 31, no. 4, February 1972, p. 144, notes that the portrait was probably included in the 1908 sale of the Rebow portraits. 

5     Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 22 September 1812, in Beckett, vol. II, pp. 85–6. For Constable’s later description of General Rebow as ‘an old friend of my father’s, from whom I had always received patronage’, see Constable, letter to C. R. Leslie, 16 August 1833, in Beckett, vol. III, p. 105. As Constable’s father was regarded by his contemporaries as ‘a man of fortune and a miller … [who] lives in the style of a country squire’, his friendship with the Rebows is not surprising (see A. F. J. Brown, Essex People 1750–1900: From Their Diaries, Memoirs and Letters, Essex Record Office Publications, no. 59, Chelmsford, Essex, 1972, p. 32). The Rev. Walter Wren Driffield, Rector of Erwarton, Suffolk, and Southchurch, Essex, but then living at the Vicarage, Feering, was another old friend of Constable’s father; Driffield was also distantly related to the Rebow family, and often visited Wivenhoe Park (see Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 22 September 1812, in Beckett, vol. II, p. 85). 

6     Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 6 September 1812, in Beckett, vol. II, p. 84. 

7     For Major General Rebow’s military career, see G. O. Rickword, ‘Major-General Francis Slater Rebow, of Wivenhoe Park, Colchester: His Friendship with John Constable, R.A.’, Essex Review, vol. LIII, no. 209, January 1944, pp. 87–9; Butler, pp. 61–2. 

8     See Reynolds, Early Paintings and Drawings, text vol., no. 16.19, p. 219; plate vol., pl. 1283. 

9     Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 28 July 1816, in Beckett, vol. II, p. 188. 

10     Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 21 August 1816, in Beckett, vol. II, pp. 196–7. 

11     Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 30 August 1816, in Beckett, vol. II, pp. 198–9. Reynolds, Later Paintings and Drawings, text vol., p. 4, notes that Constable eventually solved the ‘great difficulty’ in his composition by adding a strip of canvas at either side of the painting. Beckett originally transcribed the word degrees (in the second paragraph of the extract) as ?distances, but degrees is preferred by Clarkson (J. Clarkson, ‘”A Walk with the Little Lady”: Exploring Wivenhoe Park’, in Clarkson & Cox, pp. 15, 21) and by Rosenthal (M. Rosenthal, ‘Writing Wivenhoe Park’, in Clarkson & Cox, p. 33). For a reproduction of the letter itself, see Clarkson & Cox, p. [3]. 

12     Clarkson, ‘A Walk with the Little Lady’, p. 18. 

13     See Reynolds, Early Paintings and Drawings, text vol., no. 01.1, p. 31; plate vol., pl. 112. 

14     ibid., text vol., no. 09.17, pp. 131–2; plate vol., pl. 751. 

15     Constable, letter to John Dunthorne, 29 May 1802, in Beckett, vol. II, p. 32. 

16     M. Girouard, ‘Living in a Folly’, Country Life, vol. CXXIV, no. 3225, 6 November 1958, p. 1040, notes that the name is said to date from the Civil War period, when Cromwell quartered his troops in this area. For the suggestion that the original cottage on the site was used as servants’ quarters, see J. Hedges, Alresford 1900–2000: A Century of Village Life in Postcards and Photographs, Alresford, Essex, 2000, p. 26. 

17     See, for example, M. Cormack, Constable, Cambridge, 1986, pp. 97, 99. 

18     Richard Woods, estimates for building works at Wivenhoe Park, Isaac Martin Rebow (1731–1781) papers, box 2, Rebow Family Papers, Essex County Record Office (Colchester Branch), Acc. C47; see also Feesey, pp. 14–18. 

19     Mary Rebow, letter to Isaac Martin Rebow, 26 July 1778, cited in Brown, p. 66. 

20     D. W. Coller, The People’s History of Essex, Comprising a Narrative of Public and Political Events in the County, Chelmsford, Essex, 1861, pp. 565–6. 

21     Richard Woods, estimates for building works at Alresford Hall, Isaac Martin Rebow (1731–1781) papers, box 2. The construction of Woods’s chinoiserie fishing house had been instigated by Thomas Martin, the owner of Alresford Hall, and the uncle and father-in-law of Colonel Rebow. Rebow’s wife, Mary (née Martin), inherited the estate on Thomas Martin’s death in 1775, and Colonel Rebow completed the project. The Martin family had derived its wealth from the East India Company, a fact that possibly explains the choice of an exotic oriental style for the fishing pavilion. See F. Cowell, ‘Richard Woods (?1716–93): A Preliminary Account’, Garden History, vol. 14, no. 2, Autumn 1986, pp. 109–14; Hedges, p. 24. 

22     See P. Connor, Oriental Architecture in the West, London, 1979, pp. 68–73. 

23     Mary Rebow, letter to Isaac Martin Rebow, 17 July 1778, in Brown, p. 65. 

24     Girouard, p. 1041. During 1816 Constable depicted on more than one occasion a picturesque building flanked by trees, as, for example, in the drawing The Octagonal House, Putney Heath (private collection) (see Reynolds, Early Paintings and Drawings, text vol., no. 16.26, p. 220; plate vol., pl. 1288). 

25     Constable, quoted in A. Shirley, The Published Mezzotints of John Constable, R.A. (1930), cited in I. Fleming-Williams, Constable and His Drawings, London, 1990, p. 111. 

26     Fleming-Williams, p. 111, suggests that this treatment of detail mimics actual visual experience: ‘[P]arts are seen at a glance, others do not initially register’. 

27     See Reynolds, Early Paintings and Drawings, text vol., no. 16.29, p. 221. 

28     See Reynolds, Later Paintings and Drawings, text vol., no. 17.4, p.4. 

29     Infrared reflectographs of the painting reveal a fine grid of five intersecting pencil lines. I would like to thank Michael Varcoe-Cocks and the Conservation Department of the National Gallery of Victoria for giving me access to this material. S. Cove, ‘Constable’s Oil Painting Materials and Techniques’, in Constable (exh. cat.), by L. Parris & I. Fleming- Williams, Tate Gallery, London, 1991, pp. 508–9, provides other examples of Constable’s use of grids. 

30     See, for example, M. Kitson, ‘Exhibition Reviews: London, Constable at the Tate’, Burlington Magazine, vol. CXXXIII, no. 1061, August 1991, pp. 559–60. 

31     Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 15 September 1816, in Beckett, vol. II, pp. 203–4. 

32     Constable, letter to Maria Bicknell, 19 September 1816, in Beckett, vol. II, p. 206. 

33     For the ongoing association between Constable and the Rebows, see M. Sommerlad, Wivenhoe Park and John Constable, Colchester, Essex, 1984. 

34     See Sommerlad, p. 16. 

35     Constable, quoted by G. Reynolds, John Constable (exh. cat.), Isetan Museum of Art, Tokyo, 1986, cat. no. 19, p. 153.