Your Paintings: John Constable and John Dunthorne Jr

Emma Roodhouse with John Dunthorne Jr's self portrait
Image caption Emma Roodhouse in the storage room with John Dunthorne Jr's self portrait

The BBC is offering a chance to get an online glimpse of an oil painting with connections to Suffolk landscape artist John Constable.

Self Portrait by John Dunthorne Jr (1798-1832) is currently in storage with Colchester and Ipswich Museums.

Dunthorne Jr was Constable's assistant at his studio in London.

BBC Your Paintings aims to show some of the 200,000 publicly-owned oil paintings in the UK which are not currently on display.

Emma Roodhouse, art curator at Ipswich Museum, said: "It's not 'hidden away', we're not hiding things from people!

"It's purely that we have limited space to display our collections which are quite extensive from Egyptology to artworks.

"This painting was out fairly recently for an exhibition on Felix Thornley Cobbold, because it was part-purchased using his bequest in the late 1960s, and he [the self portrait] has travelled to America, so he has been out and about."

Class divide

Dunthorne Jr's painting (circa 1820) has been picked out because of the story behind it.

The artist's father John Dunthorne Sr lived in East Bergholt and worked as a plumber and glazier.

He was a friend of John Constable (1776-1837) and they went sketching in the Dedham Vale - immortalised by Constable in paintings such as The Haywain.

Ms Roodhouse said: "This was disapproved of by Constable's mill-owning family because they aspired to be upper class and didn't want to associate with tradesmen.

"They thought Dunthorne Sr was a bit of a jack-the-lad, maybe leading John Constable astray.

"But this wasn't the case and they always maintained this letter-writing friendship, hence he let his son become Constable's assistant at the age of 16."

Image caption Many Constable paintings are on display at Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich


Dunthorne Jr became an intermittent assistant from 1814.

"He would have helped him with the large canvasses, particularly the Waterloo and Salisbury - these six-footer canvasses where he would need assistance for the sky and landscape, mixing paints and all sorts of things like that," said Ms Roodhouse.

"It was an apprenticeship in learning from somebody who was so well-established."

Between 1827 and 1832, Dunthorne Jr exhibited at the Royal Academy and also worked as a picture restorer.

Both Dunthornes are believed to have painted and re-painted the pub sign at the Marlborough Head in Dedham, Essex.

BBC Television is showing Hidden Paintings of the East - the story of art collector Frederick Duleep Singh, the Maharajah's son who lived at Elveden Hall.

It is being broadcast on BBC One on Sunday, 26 June, 2011 at 2225 BST.

The presenter is comedian Meera Syal, and you can watch an excerpt:

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