John Constable (1776-1837)
Unlike his colleague Turner, who wished
to be an artist during childhood, Constable was rather late
in his decision to become one of Europe's most celebrated
and prestigious landscape artists. After several years of
studying the family business (he was born to a corn merchant
in Suffolk), Constable left for London in 1799 to pursue
serious study in art at the Royal Academy. While at the
Royal Academy, he studied the work of the masters that preceded
him. Rather than sit in the stuffy rooms of the academy,
Constable preferred the magnitude of the English countryside.
His ideal setting was nature itself, and unlike Turner's
serene and smooth landscapes, Constable's was wild and unstable.
It projected itself from the canvas, and was tainted with
reminders of civilization. His early work was done in watercolor.
In 1811, he unleashed his emotions in oil with oil sketches
of the Stour. His work was an innovation and inspiration
in landscape painting. His chief tool was his palette knife.
Meanwhile Constable had fallen in love with the young heiress,
Maria Bicknell. Ten years passed before they were married
in 1816. During that time, Constable painted portraits for
a living. While Turner toured Europe, Constable painted
on 6-foot canvasses whatever was in his way in his home
of Stour Valley. However, he influenced not only Romanticism,
but the Barbizon school and the impressionist movement in
France. In fact, his work was forged the most in France.
After the death of his wife in 1829, Constable's painting
changed. Style dominated nature. By that time he was made
a Royal Academician, but he had grown cynical and irritable
and painted storms and tragedy in his landscapes. Nevertheless,
he was the "Wordsworth of the canvas" (Clark 280).
His paintings changed the way landscapes were seen forever.
Dedham Vale (1802) oil on canvas
Malvern Hall (1809) oil on canvas
Stour Valley and Dedham Village (circa 1814) oil
Wivenhoe Park, Essex (1816) oil on canvas
Flatford Mill (1817) oil on canvas
The Lock (1823-24) oil on canvas
The Cornfield (1826) oil on canvas
Valley Farm (1835)
Reynolds, Graham. Constable's England. New
York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1983.