John Constable’s Paint Box, c.1820s Fridge Magnet


This fridge magnet features the Paint Box dating from the 1820s and belonging to the Suffolk landscape artist John Constable (1776-1837)

The paint box contains examples of Constable’s paint brushes, palette knives, a Cumberland lead pencil, a double-ended metal pencil holder (called a porte-crayon), and nine glass phials of various sizes containing powdered pigments and dried paint. It also holds a couple of entry tickets made out of ivory which Constable used for Lectures at the Royal Academy.

8 x 8.5 cm

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Two paint boxes used by Constable are known to survive: this wooden one which has descended through the family, with a removable panel in the lid; and a metal box, given shortly after Constable’s death to his engraver, David Lucas, which has small rectangular compartments for storing bladders of oil paint.

This wooden box is, in effect, a portable sketching box and during painting, Constable would rest the box on his knees. Fixing the lid open at a convenient angle with the metal ‘stay’, Constable would then pin the painting support to the lid and start work. When the sketch was finished, he would simply pack it back into the lid of the box, held in place by the removable panel. Several sketches might be stored together in the lid after a day’s sketching.

John Constable’s Paint Box, c.1820s
Wood, metal, pigments, lapis lazuli

Private collection at Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury, Suffolk

©Gainsborough’s House

A selection of John Constable’s art and personal possessions are on permanent display within a dedicated room at Gainsborough’s House the National Centre of Thomas Gainsborough.