WATTS, Frederick W. (1800-1870), or Circle of John CONSTABLE, R.A. Barges on a River. After 1822.
(45 4/8 x 62 inches), oil on canvas. A fine painting depiction barges on a river, possibly the Stour.
Provenance: In the Bobst Collection by 1969.
The composition is loosely based on Constable's View on the Stour near Dedham of 1822, in the Huntington Library, Art Collection, San Marino, CA.
An attribution to Frederick W. Watts (1800-1870), whose style was strongly influenced by Constable's work, has been suggested for this painting. He was an exhibitor at the Royal Academy from 1821-1860 and at the British Institution from 1823-1862
Watts "lived all his working life in the Hampstead area of London but painted landscapes throughout much of Britain; he appears also to have visited France in 1826. (Two pictures with Rouen as subject matter were shown at the British Institution in 1827.) His exhibited pictures of the 1820s and 1830s usually bore specific topographic titles and were closely handled; later canvases were more broadly painted and often imitated the mature work of John Constable. Many carried generalized titles such as River Scene with Barges, enabling others subsequently to identify them as scenes in ‘Constable country’ and to misattribute them to Constable himself. Watts was regarded as a follower of Constable even in his earlier work: in 1833 one critic saw him as ‘trying to outrun the Constable’ but concluded that: ‘He never will, … daub away as he may’ (Ivy, 180). That same year, however, Constable suffered the indignity of being mistaken for his follower: one of his paintings of Helmingham Dell in Suffolk was put up for sale at Christie's but arrived too late for inclusion in the catalogue. It was bought in at 50s. because, Constable told a friend, ‘it was considered Watt's, and at least not certain, if mine’ (Beckett, 164). Like Constable, Watts was a prolific outdoor oil sketcher. (Two examples are in the Tate collection.) Although possessing their own distinctive character, such sketches have also been misattributed to Constable in the past" (DNB).