John Constable - Artist of the Week
July 8th, 2019
“I should paint my own places best. Painting is but another word for feeling”. John Constable
Born in East Bergholt England, John Constable was the son of a wealthy corn merchant. From his early days John enjoyed traveling in the area surrounding his home. On these trips he would sketch the beauty of the world around him. A large portion of Constable’s artwork reflects the deep affection he had for the Suffolk and Essex Countryside.
Although John was not the eldest in his family, his older brother was intellectually disabled which meant that John was the ideal candidate to take over his father’s corn business. John did work for a brief period in the corn business but the urge to create art was too strong to resist. Even after being advised by professional artist John Thomas Smith to avoid a career in art, Constable persuaded his father to let him pursue painting. Golding Constable allowed this and granted John a small allowance to begin. In the meantime, John’s younger brother Abram took over the running of the mills.
With the blessing of his father, John entered the Royal Academy schools and attended life classes and anatomical dissections. He was inspired by the works of Claude Lorrain, Jacob van Ruisdael, Thomas Gainsborough and many other artists. In 1802 he turned down the job of being a drawing master at Great Marlow Military College. Constable longed to be a professional landscape painter. In a letter to John Dunthorne he stated, “For the last two years I have been running after pictures, and seeking the truth at second hand... I have not endeavored 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.”
By 1803 his paintings were being exhibited at the Royal Academy. John not only did landscape pieces, but he also dabbled in portraiture. These were not his favorite paintings to do as he found the work dull, but it helped make ends meet. Constable’s art style was Naturalism and some of his most famous paintings are done in the naturalistic tradition. Although John was never financially successful as an artist in his lifetime, he does have several famous paintings, most notable Wivenhoe Park of 1826, The Hay Wain of 1821 and Dedham Vale of 1802. Constable’s love for his countryside and his amazing talent for painting nature can be best described by John himself, “The sound of water escaping from mill dams etc., willows, old rotten planks, slimy posts, and brickwork, I love such things."
John passed away in 1837 from what they believe was heart failure. He was buried with his wife Maria in the graveyard of St John at Hampstead Church in Hampstead London.