The Lock is an oil painting by English artist, John Constable, that was completed in 1824. The painting forms part of Constable’s Stour series and depicts a rural scene on the River Stour in Suffolk. The artwork portrays a lock-keeper unlocking the gates at Flatford Lock while a barge waits in the basin for the water-level to drop.
The painting’s notable features include Constable’s new techniques of portraying natural elements like flowing water and wind blowing through trees, which gave his work a realistic appearance. In “The Lock,” Constable aimed to capture the truth of natural scenes, rather than create idealized versions of nature. This approach was revolutionary, as it disregarded the conventional hierarchy of painting genres that saw landscapes relegated beneath historical and genre paintings.
The Lock was auctioned for £22,441,250 at Christie’s in London on 3 July 2012, making it one of the most expensive British artworks sold at auction. Today, Constable is remembered as one of England’s greatest painters, who influenced artists such as the Impressionists with his unique approach to portraying natural landscapes. The Lock remains an iconic piece of artwork and a testament to Constable’s originality and technical brilliance.