Study for "The Leaping Horse"

Oil painting of a horse and rider jumping a fence beside a river.

John Constable (East Bergholt, Suffolk 1776–1837 Hampstead)
Study for “The Leaping Horse,” ca. 1824–25
Oil on canvas
8 3/8 × 10 5/8 in. (21.2 × 27 cm)
Promised Gift from the Collection of Elizabeth and Jean-Marie Eveillard
Photo Joseph Coscia Jr.


One of the most significant landscape painters in British history, John Constable is best known for his scenes of the pre-industrial English countryside. This oil sketch was made in preparation for The Leaping Horse, the last of Constable’s celebrated “six-footers,” a series of large-scale paintings of scenes along the River Stour in the artist’s native Suffolk, known since his lifetime as “Constable country.” It is one of a number of drawn and painted sketches related to the final painting (Royal Academy of Arts, London), which was exhibited in 1825 and depicts the moment a barge horse (used to tow barges along waterways) leaps over a cattle fence blocking a towpath at river’s edge. It may have been in the present sketch that Constable first gave form to the idea of adding to the horse a rider, who in urging the animal over the fence strikes a dramatic pose—reminiscent of an equestrian portrait—lauded as a “stroke of genius.”

  268 — (1) Spoken Label and (2) Curator's Personal Reflection
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