John Constable, The Hay Wain, 1821
From the National Gallery:
Constable’s painting is based on a site in Suffolk, near Flatford on the River Stour. The hay wain, a type of horse-drawn cart, stands in the water in the foreground. Across the meadow in the distance on the right, is a group of haymakers at work. The cottage shown on the left was rented by a farmer called Willy Lott and stands behind Flatford Mill. Today, the cottage and river path are still much as they were in Constable’s time
Although the painting evokes a Suffolk scene, it was created in the artist’s studio in London. Constable first made a number of open-air sketches of parts of the scene. He then made a full-size preparatory sketch in oil to establish the composition.
The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1821, the year it was painted, but failed to find a buyer. Yet when exhibited in France, with other paintings by Constable, the artist was awarded a Gold Medal by Charles X.
ART TIMELINE: 1824
J. M. W. Turner, 1824, The Battle of Trafalgar: Romanticism
Jacques-Louis David, 1824, Mars Being Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces: neoclassicism
John Constable, 1824, The Lock: Romantic landscape
Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape at the Royal Academy of Arts
Last year I completed a module on art of the 18th century, where we spent a lot of time looking at traditional English landscapes and the concept of the picturesque, the sublime and the beautiful. I have always been a huge fan of Turner, but this course allowed me to become more familiar with the other two English Romanticists. Hence why I felt I simply couldn’t miss the Royal Academy’s latest landscape show.
The exhibition concentrates on the development of landscape depiction, and examines the artistic influences on the work of Constable, Gainsborough and Turner. The show features 17th century engravings and mezzotints attributed to Claude Lorrain, Nicholas Poussin and Salvator Rosa, as well as work from the title artist’s contemporaries (think Richard Wilson and Thomas Smith of Derby).
Fans of landscape painting should be prepared for an in-depth visual study of landscape development and history, but should perhaps be aware that the show is not your typical painting blockbuster. Engravings are the key focus of the exhibition, but certain physical objects displayed throughout the exhibition space create a quirky and sentimental value to the show: Turner’s watercolour set, test paper and fishing rod, which went with him on every painting trip, were definite highlights for me, and formed a real artistic personality for Turner and allowed the visitor to imagine the artist at work for themselves.
This is a show for hardcore landscape lovers with a real passionate interest in the subject, and who, like the Royal Academy, wishes to see landscape transcend its status of an understated art form.
ART TIMELINE: 1833
Paul Delaroche, 1833, The Execution of Lady Jane Grey: history painting
Thomas Cole, 1833, The Titan’s Goblet: Hudson River School, Romanticism
John Constable, 1833-36, Cenotaph to the Memory of Joshua Reynolds: Romanticism
John Constable, 1814-15, Stour Valley and Dedham Church
It is scenes like this that make me wish I spent more times in the English countryside. Constable is unrivalled is his ability to create a crisp yet warm and inviting landscape of endless English beauty.
The Lock by John Constable, 1824
This piece by the English Romanticist landscape painter John Constable recently sold for £22.4million! See this article at the BBC online for details.
ART TIMELINE: 1814
Samuel Taylor Coleridge by Washington Allston, 1814: Romanticism
Leonidas at Thermopylae by Jacques-Louis David, 1814: Neoclassicism
Stour Valley and Dedham Church by John Constable, 1814-15: Romanticist landscape
Happy Birthday John Constable: 11th June 1776
Dedham Vale by John Constable, 1802. Constable is the master of capturing the beauty and lushness of the British countryside.