Lionel Constable by Charles Robert Leslie 1854

Lionel Bicknell Constable

(2 January 1828 - 1887)



Born at Hampstead, seventh and last child of John and Maria (nee Bicknell) Constable. At least five of Constable’s seven children also drew or painted. Lionel Bicknell, who was also a photographer, specialised in landscape painting and exhibited examples of his work at the Royal Academy during 1849-55, and at the British Institute, London.


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Lionel Bicknell Constable

Until the late 1970’s many of the works now attributed to Lionel were mistakenly thought to have been painted by his father and although a variety of work by him is now known, his full range is still uncertain. Lionel Constable was an unusual artist, although he exhibited as a professional at the Royal Academy and made other attempts to sell his work, he did not depend on painting for a living and was able to give it up after his brother Alfred’s tragic death in 1853. He seems to have taught himself landscape painting almost entirely by studying his father’s work, and invariably worked on a small scale, his largest canvases being only about 12x14 in.

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John Constable -- In 1827, his family had increased to six, three sons and three daughters, and he settled permanently in Well Walk, Hampstead, letting the upper part of his town residence. His affection for breezy Hampstead had grown very deep. "Our little drawing room," he writes, "commands a view unsurpassed in Europe from Westminster Abbey to Gravesend. The dome of St. Paul's in the air seems to realize Michael Angelo's words on seeing the Pantheon: 'I will build such a thing in the sky.' We see the woods and lofty grounds of the East Saxons to the north-east." Some of his happiest days were spent in this house and its neighbourhood. Here his last child, Lionel Bicknell, was born on January 2nd, 1828.

Throughout the year his wife was seriously ill, and though she seemed to be getting better during the summer, there was no hope; for her disease was consumption, of which she died on November 23rd, 1828. The blow was a terrible one, from which he never completely recovered. Their marriage had been ideal in its happiness, and Constable was never the same man during the remainder of his life. He brought his children back to the house in Charlotte Street, and only retained the one in Well Walk as an occasional residence.

John Constable, by Arthur B. Chamberlain, Deputy Keeper of the Birmingham Art Gallery, London; George Bell & Sons, 1909. First published, November, 1903. Reprinted, 1909.


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