John Constable

English, Romantic, 1776-1837

 Page 1 of 1   

The Hay Wain
John Constable
387 USD

Wivenhoe Park, Essex
John Constable
306 USD

Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Garden
John Constable
419 USD

The Quarters behind Alresford Hall
John Constable
227 USD
The Cornfield
John Constable
354 USD
Boat Building near Flatford Mill
John Constable
227 USD
The White Horse
John Constable
304 USD
Harwich Lighthouse
John Constable
227 USD
Golding Constable's Flower Garden
John Constable
300 USD
The Vale of Dedham
John Constable
320 USD
Parham Mill, Gillingham
John Constable
237 USD
Flatford Mill
(Scene on a Navigable River)

John Constable
348 USD
A View on the Stour near Dedham
John Constable
327 USD
Hampstead Heath
John Constable
247 USD
Golding Constable's Kitchen Garden
John Constable
300 USD
Cottage in a Cornfield
John Constable
237 USD
Dedham Lock and Mill
John Constable
305 USD
Salisbury Cathedral from Lower Marsh Close
John Constable
313 USD
John Constable
247 USD
Osmington Village
John Constable
236 USD
Malvern Hall, Warwickshire
John Constable
303 USD
The Glebe Farm
John Constable
291 USD
Yarmouth Pier
John Constable
226 USD
Study of 'A Boat Passing a Lock'
John Constable
314 USD

 Page 1 of 1   


John Constable, RA (11 June 1776 - 31 March 1837) was an English Romantic painter. Born in Suffolk, he is known principally for his landscape paintings of Dedham Vale, the area surrounding his home-now known as "Constable Country" - which he invested with an intensity of affection. "I should paint my own places best", he wrote to his friend John Fisher in 1821, "painting is but another word for feeling".

His most famous paintings include Wivenhoe Park of 1816, Dedham Vale of 1802 and The Hay Wain of 1821. Although his paintings are now among the most popular and valuable in British art, Constable was never financially successful. He did not become a member of the establishment until he was elected to the Royal Academy at the age of 52. His work was embraced in France, where he sold more works than in his native England and inspired the Barbizon school.

Early career

John Constable was born in East Bergholt, a village on the River Stour in Suffolk, to Golding and Ann (Watts) Constable. His father was a wealthy corn merchant, owner of Flatford Mill in East Bergholt and, later, Dedham Mill in Essex. Golding Constable owned a small ship, The Telegraph, which he moored at Mistley on the Stour estuary, and used to transport corn to London. He was a cousin of the London tea merchant, Abram Newman. Although Constable was his parents' second son, his older brother was intellectually disabled and John was expected to succeed his father in the business. After a brief period at a boarding school in Lavenham, he was enrolled in a day school in Dedham. Constable worked in the corn business after leaving school, but his younger brother Abram eventually took over the running of the mills.

In his youth, Constable embarked on amateur sketching trips in the surrounding Suffolk and Essex countryside, which was to become the subject of a large proportion of his art. These scenes, in his own words, "made me a painter, and I am grateful"; "the sound of water escaping from mill dams etc., willows, old rotten planks, slimy posts, and brickwork, I love such things." He was introduced to George Beaumont, a collector, who showed him his prized Hagar and the Angel by Claude Lorrain, which inspired Constable. Later, while visiting relatives in Middlesex, he was introduced to the professional artist John Thomas Smith, who advised him on painting but also urged him to remain in his father's business rather than take up art professionally.

In 1799, Constable persuaded his father to let him pursue a career in art, and Golding granted him a small allowance. Entering the Royal Academy Schools as a probationer, he attended life classes and anatomical dissections, and studied and copied old masters. Among works that particularly inspired him during this period were paintings by Thomas Gainsborough, Claude Lorrain, Peter Paul Rubens, Annibale Carracci and Jacob van Ruisdael. He also read widely among poetry and sermons, and later proved a notably articulate artist. By 1803, he was exhibiting paintings at the Royal Academy.

In 1802 he refused the position of drawing master at Great Marlow Military College, a move which Benjamin West (then master of the RA) counselled would mean the end of his career. In that year, Constable wrote a letter to John Dunthorne in which he spelled out his determination to become a professional landscape painter:

“ For the last two years I have been running after pictures, and seeking the truth at second hand... I have not endeavoured to represent nature with the same elevation of mind with which I set out, but have rather tried to make my performances look like the work of other men...There is room enough for a natural painter. The great vice of the present day is bravura, an attempt to do something beyond the truth. ”
His early style has many qualities associated with his mature work, including a freshness of light, colour and touch, and reveals the compositional influence of the old masters he had studied, notably of Claude Lorrain. Constable's usual subjects, scenes of ordinary daily life, were unfashionable in an age that looked for more romantic visions of wild landscapes and ruins. He made occasional trips further afield.

In 1803 he spent almost a month aboard the East Indiaman ship Coutts as it visited south-east ports, and in 1806 he undertook a two-month tour of the Lake District. He told his friend and biographer, Charles Leslie, that the solitude of the mountains oppressed his spirits, and Leslie wrote:

“ His nature was peculiarly social and could not feel satisfied with scenery, however grand in itself, that did not abound in human associations. He required villages, churches, farmhouses and cottages. ”
To make ends meet, Constable took up portraiture, which he found dull, though he executed many fine portraits. He also painted occasional religious pictures but, according to John Walker, "Constable's incapacity as a religious painter cannot be overstated."

Constable adopted a routine of spending winter in London and painting at East Bergholt in summer. In 1811 he first visited John Fisher and his family in Salisbury, a city whose cathedral and surrounding landscape were to inspire some of his greatest paintings.


Constable quietly rebelled against the artistic culture that taught artists to use their imagination to compose their pictures rather than nature itself. He told Leslie, "When I sit down to make a sketch from nature, the first thing I try to do is to forget that I have ever seen a picture".

Although Constable produced paintings throughout his life for the "finished" picture market of patrons and R.A. exhibitions, constant refreshment in the form of on-the-spot studies was essential to his working method. He was never satisfied with following a formula. "The world is wide", he wrote, "no two days are alike, nor even two hours; neither were there ever two leaves of a tree alike since the creation of all the world; and the genuine productions of art, like those of nature, are all distinct from each other."

Constable painted many full-scale preliminary sketches of his landscapes to test the composition in advance of finished pictures. These large sketches, with their free and vigorous brushwork, were revolutionary at the time, and they continue to interest artists, scholars and the general public. The oil sketches of The Leaping Horse and The Hay Wain, for example, convey a vigour and expressiveness missing from Constable's finished paintings of the same subjects. Possibly more than any other aspect of Constable's work, the oil sketches reveal him in retrospect to have been an avant-garde painter, one who demonstrated that landscape painting could be taken in a totally new direction.

Constable's watercolours were also remarkably free for their time: the almost mystical Stonehenge, 1835, with its double rainbow, is often considered to be one of the greatest watercolours ever painted. When he exhibited it in 1836, Constable appended a text to the title: "The mysterious monument of Stonehenge, standing remote on a bare and boundless heath, as much unconnected with the events of past ages as it is with the uses of the present, carries you back beyond all historical records into the obscurity of a totally unknown period."

In addition to the full-scale oil sketches, Constable completed numerous observational studies of landscapes and clouds, determined to become more scientific in his recording of atmospheric conditions. The power of his physical effects was sometimes apparent even in the full-scale paintings which he exhibited in London; The Chain Pier, 1827, for example, prompted a critic to write: "the atmosphere possesses a characteristic humidity about it, that almost imparts the wish for an umbrella".

The sketches themselves were the first ever done in oils directly from the subject in the open air. To convey the effects of light and movement, Constable used broken brushstrokes, often in small touches, which he scumbled over lighter passages, creating an impression of sparkling light enveloping the entire landscape. One of the most expressionistic and powerful of all his studies is Seascape Study with Rain Cloud, painted about 1824 at Brighton, which captures with slashing dark brushstrokes the immediacy of an exploding cumulus shower at sea. Constable also became interested in painting rainbow effects, for example in Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, 1831, and in Cottage at East Bergholt, 1833.

To the sky studies he added notes, often on the back of the sketches, of the prevailing weather conditions, direction of light, and time of day, believing that the sky was "the key note, the standard of scale, and the chief organ of sentiment" in a landscape painting. In this habit he is known to have been influenced by the pioneering work of the meteorologist Luke Howard on the classification of clouds; Constable's annotations of his own copy of Researches About Atmospheric Phaenomena by Thomas Forster show him to have been fully abreast of meteorological terminology. "I have done a good deal of skying", Constable wrote to Fisher on 23 October 1821; "I am determined to conquer all difficulties, and that most arduous one among the rest".

Constable once wrote in a letter to Leslie, "My limited and abstracted art is to be found under every hedge, and in every lane, and therefore nobody thinks it worth picking up". He could never have imagined how influential his honest techniques would turn out to be. Constable's art inspired not only contemporaries like GĂ©ricault and Delacroix, but the Barbizon School, and the French impressionists of the late nineteenth century.

Selected paintings

Dedham Vale (1802) – Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Landscape: Two Boys Fishing (1813) – Anglesey Abbey, Cambs, NT
Landscape: Ploughing Scene in Suffolk (1814, revised c.1816 and 1831) – Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT
The Stour Valley And Dedham Village (1814–1815) – Museum of Fine Arts, Boston[27]
Boat-building near Flatford Mill (1815) – Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Golding Constable's Flower Garden (1815) – Ipswich Museum, Ipswich
Golding Constable's Kitchen Garden (1815) – Ipswich Museum, Ipswich
Portrait of Maria Bicknell, Mrs. John Constable (1816) – Tate Gallery, London
Wivenhoe Park, Essex (1816) – National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Flatford Mill (original title Scene on a Navigable River; 1816–17) – Tate Britain
Weymouth Bay: Bowleaze Cove and Jordon Hill (1816–17) – National Gallery, London
The White Horse (original title A Scene on the river Stour) (1819) – Frick Collection, New York City
Hampstead Heath (1820) – Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Stratford Mill (1820) – National Gallery, London
The Hay Wain (original title Landscape: Noon; 1821) – National Gallery, London
View on the Stour near Dedham (1822) – The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA
Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Grounds (1823) – Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The Lock (1824) – Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
Seascape Study with Rain Clouds (1824–25) – Royal Academy of Arts, London
Brighton Beach (c.1824–26) – Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin
The Leaping Horse (1825) – Royal Academy of Arts, London
The Cornfield (1826) – National Gallery, London
Dedham Vale (1828) – National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh
Hadleigh Castle (1829) – Yale Center for British Art and sketch Tate Britain
Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows (1831) – Private collection; on loan to National Gallery, London
The Opening of Waterloo Bridge seen from Whitehall Stairs, 18 June 1817 (c.1832) – Tate Britain, London
The Valley Farm (1835) – Tate Gallery, London
Arundel Mill and Castle (c.1836–37) – Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OH

Source: Wikipedia