British romantic painter John Constable's famous six-foot masterpiece The Lock sold for a record £22.4 million at the Christie's old master and British paintings evening sale on 3 July, 2012.
The exclusive artwork is part of Constable's set of six-foot canvases that include The White Horse (1819) and The Hay Wain (1822). It was bought at the 1824 Royal Academy exhibition by James Morrison and remained in the possession of his descendants until acquired by the current owner in 1990.
According to Christie's, Constable was one of the most original artistic forces to emerge in the early nineteenth century. Like that of his near contemporary Turner, the impact of his work continued to reverberate in Britain, and internationally, long after his death.
The artist's success in France has been seen by many art historians as having significantly influenced the course of the history of art, as his intense observation of nature inspired French artists in a movement of landscape painting that would find its fullest expression half a century later in the work of the Impressionists.
Reuters reports that minus commission, the final price came in at the low end of expectations, although it easily beat the previous benchmark for Constable of £10.8 million when the same work was sold in 1990. Overall, the old master and British paintings evening sale brought in £85.1 million at the world's biggest auctioneer, the highest ever total for the category.
The 1824 masterpiece depicting rural life in Suffolk, east England, was brought to auction by Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. It was the last of the series to remain in private hands, although it has recently been hung in Madrid's Bornemisza Museum. This decision by the Baroness to sell the artwork reportedly drew public criticism from a member of her family and a leading figure in the art world.
Museum trustee Norman Rosenthal criticised the sale, saying it "represents a moral shame on the part of all those concerned".
Francesca Von Habsburg, Thyssen-Bornemisza's stepdaughter and another museum board member, also slammed the sale.
However, Baroness Carmen sold the artwork as she needed the money despite her huge wealth.