Constable, John

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Constable, John

John Constable, 1776–1837, English painter, b. Suffolk. Constable and Turner were the leading figures in English landscape painting of the 19th cent. Constable became famous for his landscapes of Suffolk, Hampstead, Salisbury, and Brighton. The son of a prosperous miller, he showed artistic talent while very young but did not devote himself to art until he was 23, when he went to London to study at the Royal Academy. Influenced by the 17th-century landscape painters Ruisdael and Claude Lorrain, his poetic approach to nature paralleled in spirit that of his contemporary, the poet Wordsworth. Constable's direct observations of nature and his free use of broken color were extraordinary in his day. He received but modest recognition in England, being tardily admitted to the Royal Academy in 1829. His work was more popular in France. In 1824, his View on the Stour (1819) and The Hay Wain (1821; National Gall., London) were exhibited at the Salon in Paris, winning gold medals. His work made a profound impression on the French romantics including the young Delacroix and Bonington. Later his painting influenced the Barbizon school and, more indirectly, the general course of French 19th-century landscape art. In the United States he is represented in the Metropolitan Museum and the Frick Collection, New York City, in the Mellon Center for British Art, New Haven, Conn., and in the galleries of Philadelphia, Toledo, and Chicago. Splendid examples of his work are contained in the National Gallery, London and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

See catalog of the latter collection by G. Reynolds (1960); C. R. Leslie, Memoirs of the Life of John Constable (enl. ed. 1937); collections of his letters by P. Holmes (1931) and R. B. Beckett (1962); biography by B. Taylor (1973); studies by C. Peacock (rev. ed. 1972) and R. Gadney (1976).

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