CONSTABLE, John
(b. 1776, East Bergholt, d. 1837, Hampstead)

Sketch for The Leaping Horse

1824-25
Oil on canvas, 129 x 188 cm
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

For some of his large canvases Constable painted full-size oil sketches, The Leaping Horse being an example. Here he has tried to freeze a sudden action - the leap of a barge horse over a cattle barrier on the Stour towpath. But to the modern observer his own description of the picture, written shortly before it was ready for the 1825 Academy exhibition - 'calm & exhilarating, fresh & blowing' - applies more happily to the sketch; the greatest sufferer in the finished canvas is the sky, which has lost its bubbling clouds.