by Joan M. Rehlin
We’re highlighting John Constable (6/11/1776–3/31/1837) in this mini art history post. Constable was an English artist, known for his naturalistic landscape paintings of Dedham Vale, Suffolk, the area surrounding his home which he loved.
Constable attended classes at the Royal Academy Schools in 1799, studying old masters. Refusing a position as drawing master at Great Marlow Military College in 1802, he focused instead on becoming a professional landscape painter. In 1803, he began exhibiting paintings at the Royal Academy and, for inspiration, took a two-month tour of England’s Lake District in 1806. In 1819, he sold his first major painting, The White Horse, and was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy. In 1821, Constable’s The Hay Wain, on exhibit at the Royal Academy, led to its purchase along with three more of his paintings by an art dealer, John Arrowsmith. Arrowsmith then exhibited The Hay Wain at the Paris Salon in 1824, where it won a gold medal. Constable was elected to the Royal Academy in 1829, and in 1831 was appointed Visitor at the Royal Academy where he was popular with the students.
Constable sold more of his work in France than his native England, and was also a leading inspiration for the Barbizon school, a mid 19th century school of French landscape painters, who were against the classical conventions and based their art on the study of nature. He believed that “painting is but another word for feeling.” Although his paintings are now among the most popular and valuable in British art, Constable was never financially successful. Also, his personal life was difficult due in part to his in-laws who threatened to disinherit their daughter when she married Constable because they believed his family was beneath theirs. Constable’s beloved wife, Maria, bore seven children, but died shortly after the last one was born. Her death left Constable to raise them all on his own, on his meager earnings.
As an example of his landscape work, we’ve included Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Garden (below), which Constable painted for John Fisher, the Bishop of Salisbury who commissioned this work. As a gesture of appreciation, Constable included the Bishop and his wife at the bottom left of the painting, under the trees. This painting is currently in the Frick Collection, New York City.
Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Garden, c.1825, oil on canvas, John Constable
Welcome to our Art Blog where we occasionally present topics of interest in the fine art world, including featuring artists other than Jim Rehlin. Some of the artwork has been created by long-departed but well-known greats; some, by compelling contemporary artists. All will be pieces we find worthwhile to share with you. If you like any of these, consider sharing the posts forward to your own blogs and other social media.