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
A selection of John Constable’s art and personal possessions will be on permanent display within a dedicated room at the new National Centre for Gainsborough in Sudbury, opening Spring 2022