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Masters of Art - John Constable

Masters of Art - John Constable

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Masters of Art - John Constable

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Sep 2, 2015
ISBN:
9789634280446
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Celebrated for his iconic depictions of the English countryside, particularly his beloved Stour valley, John Constable helped raise the status of landscape painting. Delphi’s Masters of Art Series presents the world’s first digital e-Art books, allowing digital readers to explore the works of great artists in comprehensive detail. This volume presents Constable’s collected paintings in beautiful detail, with concise introductions, hundreds of high quality images and the usual Delphi bonus material. (Version 1)
* A comprehensive range of paintings — over 200 artworks, fully indexed and arranged in chronological and alphabetical order
* Includes reproductions of rare works
* Features a special ‘Highlights’ section, with concise introductions to the masterpieces, giving valuable contextual information
* Enlarged ‘Detail’ images, allowing you to explore Constable’s celebrated works in detail, as featured in traditional art books
* Hundreds of images in stunning colour – highly recommended for viewing on tablets and smart phones or as a valuable reference tool on more conventional eReaders
* Special chronological and alphabetical contents tables for the paintings
* Easily locate the paintings you want to view
* Includes Leslie’s seminal biography - spend hours exploring the poet's personal correspondence and intriguing life - first time in digital print
* Scholarly ordering of plates into chronological order
Please visit www.delphiclassics.com to browse through our range of exciting e-Art books
CONTENTS:
The Highlights
DEDHAM VALE
PORTRAIT OF MARIA BICKNELL
LANDSCAPE: PLOUGHING SCENE IN SUFFOLK
BOAT-BUILDING NEAR FLATFORD MILL
WEYMOUTH BAY: BOWLEAZE COVE AND JORDON HILL
FLATFORD MILL
THE OPENING OF WATERLOO BRIDGE SEEN FROM WHITEHALL STAIRS
THE WHITE HORSE
HAMPSTEAD HEATH
THE HAY WAIN
CLOUD STUDY, 1822
THE LEAPING HORSE
SALISBURY CATHEDRAL FROM THE BISHOP’S GROUNDS
THE CORNFIELD
MARINE PARADE AND CHAIN PIER, BRIGHTON
HADLEIGH CASTLE
SALISBURY CATHEDRAL FROM THE MEADOWS
The Paintings
THE COLLECTED PAINTINGS
ALPHABETICAL LIST OF PAINTINGS
The Drawings
SELECTED DRAWINGS
The Biography
LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN CONSTABLE, R.A. by C. R. Leslie
Please visit www.delphiclassics.com to browse through our range of exciting titles

Sortie:
Sep 2, 2015
ISBN:
9789634280446
Format:
Livre

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Masters of Art - John Constable - John Constable

John Constable

(1776-1837)

Contents

The Highlights

DEDHAM VALE

PORTRAIT OF MARIA BICKNELL

LANDSCAPE: PLOUGHING SCENE IN SUFFOLK

BOAT-BUILDING NEAR FLATFORD MILL

WEYMOUTH BAY: BOWLEAZE COVE AND JORDON HILL

FLATFORD MILL

THE OPENING OF WATERLOO BRIDGE SEEN FROM WHITEHALL STAIRS

THE WHITE HORSE

HAMPSTEAD HEATH

THE HAY WAIN

CLOUD STUDY, 1822

THE LEAPING HORSE

SALISBURY CATHEDRAL FROM THE BISHOP’S GROUNDS

THE CORNFIELD

MARINE PARADE AND CHAIN PIER, BRIGHTON

HADLEIGH CASTLE

SALISBURY CATHEDRAL FROM THE MEADOWS

The Paintings

THE COLLECTED PAINTINGS

ALPHABETICAL LIST OF PAINTINGS

The Drawings

SELECTED DRAWINGS

The Biography

LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN CONSTABLE, R.A. by C. R. Leslie

The Delphi Classics Catalogue

© Delphi Classics 2015

Version 1

Masters of Art Series

John Constable

By Delphi Classics, 2015

COPYRIGHT

Masters of Art - John Constable

First published in the United Kingdom in 2015 by Delphi Classics.

© Delphi Classics, 2015.

All rights reserved.  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form other than that in which it is published.

Delphi Classics

is an imprint of

Delphi Publishing Ltd

Hastings, East Sussex

United Kingdom

Contact: sales@delphiclassics.com

www.delphiclassics.com

The Highlights

Constable’s birthplace, East Bergholt, Suffolk, as painted by the artist — the house no longer stands

East Bergholt today

Plaque marking the site of the birthplace

Constable’s father — Golding Constable was a wealthy corn merchant, owner of Flatford Mill in East Bergholt and, later, Dedham Mill in Essex. He owned a small ship, The Telegraph, which he moored at Mistley on the Stour estuary, which he used to transport corn to London.

Constable’s mother — Ann (Watts) Constable

Self-Portrait, 1806

John Constable by Daniel Gardner, 1796

THE HIGHLIGHTS

In this section, a sample of Constable’s most celebrated works is provided, with concise introductions, special ‘detail’ reproductions and additional biographical images.

DEDHAM VALE

John Constable was born in East Bergholt, a village on the River Stour in Suffolk, to Golding Constable, a wealthy corn merchant and Ann (Watts) Constable. 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 in later years would inspire the majority of the subject matter of his canvases. At this time, he was introduced to George Beaumont, an art collector that showed the aspiring artist, amongst his many other treasures, his prized painting Hagar and the Angel by Claude Lorrain, which would have a profound influence on Constable.

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, as well as studying and copying old masters. Among works that particularly inspired him during this period were the landscapes of Thomas Gainsborough, Claude Lorrain, Peter Paul Rubens, Annibale Carracci and Jacob van Ruisdael. By 1803, Constable was exhibiting his own works at the Royal Academy. His early style had many qualities associated with his mature work, including a freshness of light, colour and touch, revealing the compositional influence of the old masters he had studied, notably of Claude Lorrain. However, Constable’s usual choice of subjects — scenes of ordinary daily life — were unfashionable in an age that looked for more romantic visions of wild landscapes and ruins.

Completed in 1802, the following plate, Dedham Vale, presents a view of the countryside in an area around the River Stour between Manningtree and Smallbridge Farm in Essex — a scene familiar to Constable from his boyhood days. The area has been known since the artist’s lifetime as ‘Constable Country’, as it was made famous by the subsequent paintings that would be produced by the artist. Now housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the oil painting was created at pivotal point in Constable’s career, when he famously announced to friends and fellow artists: I now vow to become a natural painter, striving to produce a pure and unaffected view of nature.

Constable was determined to replicate the most faithful rendering of nature possible, spending hours in the outdoors in front of his landscapes, sketching in the fields, prior to working them up into oil. At the time of the painting’s completion, landscapes were predominantly formed of brown tonal colouring, so when it was first exhibited, the luscious tones of greens was greeted with surprise by some viewers. Dedham Vale is depicted with an elevated view, looking east across the valley. In the distance, we can glimpse the beautiful church and the estuary, with a view out to the sea.  However, in spite of the young artist’s claim to be a ‘natural painter’, the canvas is not without its classical inspiration. Constable’s beloved Claude painting, Hagar and the Angel, shares many of the same compositional features as Dedham Vale, revealing the artist’s early influences from his classical studies.

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‘Landscape with Hagar and the Angel’ by Claude Lorrain, 1646

Dedham Vale today

PORTRAIT OF MARIA BICKNELL

From 1809, Constable’s childhood friendship with Maria Elizabeth Bicknell developed into a deep and mutual love. Their marriage in 1816, when Constable was forty years old, was opposed by Maria’s grandfather, Dr. Rhudde, rector of East Bergholt. He considered the Constables his social inferiors and threatened Maria with disinheritance. Maria’s father, Charles Bicknell, solicitor to King George IV and the Admiralty, was reluctant to see Maria throw away her inheritance. Maria pointed out to John that a penniless marriage would detract from any chances he had of making a career in painting. Golding and Ann Constable, while approving the match, held out no prospect of supporting the marriage until Constable was financially secure. However, after they died in quick succession in 1816, Constable inherited a fifth share in the family business. Constable and Maria were finally married in October 1816 at St. Martin-in-the-Fields and enjoyed a honeymoon tour of the south coast.

The following portrait of Maria was painted a few months before they were married and Constable wrote to his fiancée in August: I would not be without your portrait for the world. He went on to add, It is always the first thing I see in the morning and the last at night. Although Constable was not a celebrated portraitist, in his early years he was urged to take on commissions by his family and friends, as the demand was much greater than for his preferred genre of landscapes.  Nevertheless, the artist’s undoubted affection for his betrothed is clearly delineated in the radiant portrayal of an attractive, well dressed and richly jewelled young lady.

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LANDSCAPE: PLOUGHING SCENE IN SUFFOLK

In 1802 Constable refused the position of drawing master at Great Marlow Military College, a move that Benjamin West (then master of the Royal Academy) advised him would mean the end of his artistic career. In that same 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.

Housed in the Paul Mellon Collection in New Haven, Connecticut, Landscape: Ploughing Scene in Suffolk was in fact Constable’s first painting to be purchased by someone that was not a personal acquaintance.  The sale was made at a time when the struggling artist was being advised by friends and family to desist from his ambitions of being a landscape artist. Therefore, the timely interest of a Mr. John Allnutt, following the painting’s exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1814, restored the artist’s flagging confidence.

The canvas presents a view of the Suffolk countryside, nearby the grounds of Old Hall, East Bergholt, looking across the Stour Valley. Two farmers can be seen working their ploughs, in a typical Constable scene, where countryside life has little changed during the preceding centuries.  In the distance, a white cottage can be glimpsed in the next field, while a solitary bird hovers over the tranquil scene to the right. . Initially, Alnutt had been unhappy with the portrayal of the sky in the canvas and had employed another artist to paint over it.  However, in later years he regretted his decision and asked Constable to restore the image back to it original appearance.  The artist obliged by producing an entirely new version, presented in the following plate, and Constable charged no fee — showing how appreciative he was of Allnutt’s early encouragement.

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The original exhibited 1814 version

BOAT-BUILDING NEAR FLATFORD MILL

Housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum, this painting is regarded as one of Constable’s first major works, detailing the process of building a barge in his father’s boatyard, beside Flatford Mill. The canvas was exhibited in 1815 at the Royal Academy, having been painted in the late summer of the previous year. It is recorded that the entire painting was completed in open air, from the preliminary sketches to the final finished oil.  The composition was based on a tiny pencil drawing in a sketchbook, also held at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The image presents several stages of boat building, with one worker in the foreground, seated and appearing to work in fine detail on a small section of the barge, then to the centre left, another workman toils on shaping the keel for the boat, while on the River Stour itself a third man can be seen on a finished barge, sailing along the water and so completing the process. The work is notable for its intensive detail in application, as the artist strives to achieve his bold ambition of naturalism. The shades of light, flecks of multi-greens and rich array of additional countryside ingredients all fuse together to replicate the impression of looking on a scene that had changed little over the centuries. At a time when Britain was faced with mass changes due to the Industrial Revolution and the uncertainties of the Napoleonic Wars, with the horrors of Waterloo only months away, the image conjures a sublime aura of rustic peace, unchanged by the outside world.

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The dry dock by Flatford Mill represented in the painting

WEYMOUTH BAY: BOWLEAZE COVE AND JORDON HILL

John and Maria’s marriage in October 1816 at St Martin-in-the-Fields was followed by a honeymoon tour of the south coast. The sea at Weymouth and Brighton inspired Constable to develop new techniques of brilliant colour and vivacious brushwork. At the same time, a greater emotional range was expressed in his art. Weymouth Bay: Bowleaze Cove and Jordon Hill was painted during this time and is now held in London’s National Gallery. It illustrates a view of Weymouth Bay on the south coast of England, looking west on to Bowleaze Cove and Jordan Hill, with the small Jordan River flowing over the sands. A larger version titled Osmington Shore was exhibited by Constable at the British Institution in 1819.

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Weymouth Beach today

FLATFORD MILL

Originally titled Scene on a Navigable River and completed in 1816, Flatford Mill was Constable’s largest exhibition canvas to be painted mainly outdoors to date. It would be the first of his large six-foot paintings, which would later include The Hay Wain, The Leaping Horse and The Cornfield. The following plate depicts a working rural scene, as two lighter barges and their crew progress up the River Stour from Dedham Lock. At that time, lighter barges were towed along the river by ropes attached to a horse, which had to be disconnected to allow the barges to be poled under Flatford Bridge, as seen by the barges in the image. A boy is disconnecting a rope and another sits astride a tow-horse. The rear scenery depicts the wider view of East Bergholt village, set under towering trees and a dramatic, cloud-filled sky.

The summers of 1816 and 1817 were the last which Constable spent any length of time at East Bergholt, and the last in which the artist painted directly from the scenery of his Suffolk childhood. He began the painting a few months before his marriage to Maria Bicknell, writing to her on 12 September 1816: I am now in the midst of a large picture here which I had contemplated for the next exhibition – it would have made my mind easy had it been forwarder – I cannot help it – we must not expect to have all our wishes complete. He made several drawings and oil sketches of the subject from various angles. Although the final painting was executed largely on the spot, various details were added in the studio later: the boy and the horse; the timberwork in the foreground; the mooring-post on the left. It is now known through x-rays that Constable painted out a horse on the tow-path, substituting the figures of the two boys.

The canvas was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1817 and Constable chose to repaint the tops of the trees and the entire sky afterwards. This was in time for the picture’s second showing at the British Institution in January 1818, where it was given its new title Flatford Mill. Constable never sold the painting during his lifetime and as a result it became part of the inheritance of his daughter Isabel. In 1888, she bequeathed it on behalf of herself, her sister Maria Louise and their brother Lionel Bicknell to Tate Britain in London, where it has been displayed ever since. It is now widely regarded as one of the artist’s most accomplished works.

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Flatford Mill today

Another view of the mill

THE OPENING OF WATERLOO BRIDGE SEEN FROM WHITEHALL STAIRS

Waterloo Bridge crosses the River Thames between Blackfriars Bridge and Hungerford Bridge and its name commemorates the victory of the British, the Dutch and the Prussians at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Due to its location at a strategic bend in the river, the views from the bridge (of Westminster to the west and of the City of London to the east) are widely held to be the finest from any spot in London at ground level. The first bridge on the site was designed in 1809-10 by John Rennie for the Strand Bridge Company and opened in 1817 as a toll bridge. The granite bridge had nine arches, each of 120 feet (36.6 m) span, separated by double Doric stone columns, and was 2,456 feet (748.6 m) long, including approaches–1,240 feet (378.0 m) between abutments–and 42 feet (12.8 m) wide between the parapets. Before its opening it was known as the Strand Bridge.

It is believed Constable witnessed the Prince Regent’s opening of the bridge in 1817 and two years later he made the following oil sketch, most likely with the intention of building it up to a much larger and finer oil painting to exhibit at the Royal Academy. However, it was not until as late as 1832 that he finally created the intended finished oil painting. The sketch is now housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and presents an atmospheric and lively view of the spectacle, with a woodland scene on the left bank that would be sadly unrecognisable today. Constable painted many full-scale preliminary sketches of his landscapes throughout his career, allowing him to test the composition in advance of finished pictures. These large sketches, with their free and vigorous brushwork, were revolutionary at the time and continue to interest scholars in the artist’s work. They convey a vigour and expressiveness sometimes lacking in the finished paintings of the same subjects, while foreshadowing the eventual direction that the work of the Impressionists and modern landscape painting would take.

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The 1832 finished oil painting of the subject

Waterloo Bridge today

THE WHITE HORSE

Although he had scraped an income from painting, it was not until 1819 that Constable sold his first important canvas, The White Horse, which led to a series of six footers, as his large-scale paintings would come to be known. It was in the same year that he was elected as an Associate of the Royal Academy, where the painting was exhibited and purchased by a Mr John Fisher for 100 guineas. Now housed in New York’s Frick Collection, the image presents a scene downstream from Flatford Mill, giving a view of the mill stream connecting to the Stour River. The painting was well-received by critics and for the first time Constable found himself launched in the public eye.

In the structuring of the dimensions, Constable had realised that to make a great impression in an over populated exhibition at Somerset House, he would have to make his canvases monumental in size.  The White Horse measures six feet in length and four feet in height. By seizing the attention of the public at the exhibition, he was directly challenging what the art establishment currently considered to be a part of the great tradition of European landscape art. The sheer size of his canvas forced critics to treat his subject matter as high art.

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The full size sketch for the composition

The Exhibition Room at Somerset House, c. 1808

HAMPSTEAD HEATH

Constable and Maria first moved to Hampstead in 1819, hoping that the fresher air would ease her tuberculosis. Hampstead was then a rural village on northern outskirts of London, though the area is now greatly urbanised. From that time on the Constable family would spend several months in Hampstead every year. The following plate was completed by the artist in 1820 and was most likely exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1821. It details a view of the heath towards Harrow, near Whitestone Pond, with Branch Hill Pond out of view to the left. The painting delicately blends warm colours to evoke a pleasant impression of the landscape, with lush greens for the grass and vibrant patches of blue for the sky. Constable uses a technique of harmonising the colours by giving the central labourer’s coat a striking red colour. This forms a complimentary tone to the greens of the canvas and the red hue is repeated on the harness of the horses, producing a subtle balance to the surrounding cooler colours. Constable would use this device again later in many of his famous works, including The Hay Wain and The Cornfield.

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Hampstead Heath today

Whitestone Pond today

THE HAY WAIN

Widely regarded as the most famous painting of English art, The Hay Wain was completed in 1821 and is housed in London’s National Gallery.  The image presents a view of three horses pulling a hay wain (a large farm cart) across the river, as a nearby building, Willy Lott’s Cottage (still standing today) is visible on the far left. The scene takes place near Flatford Mill, with the left bank in Suffolk and the landscape on the right bank in Essex. Forming one of a series of six-footers produced for the annual summer exhibitions at the Royal Academy, The Hay Wain was rigorously planned, with a full-scale oil sketch for the work giving a clear indication of its development. Constable originally exhibited the painting with the somewhat bland title Landscape: Noon, suggesting that he envisaged it as belonging to the classical landscape tradition of representing the cycles of nature.

Interestingly, The Hay Wain was painted in the artist’s studio in London, many miles away from the Stour setting portrayed in the composition, during the winter months of 1820. Constable had written to ask his friend John Dunthorne to sketch the hay wain itself in situ and to send it to him in London. Constable’s brother reported that Dunthorne had a very ‘cold job’ drawing the Suffolk harvest wagon. Nevertheless, the task was evidently successful and had a hand in producing one of the most famous images of Western art. It is surprising that Constable was able to inject so much natural life and realism into a work that was produced in artificial circumstances.

Although the painting is revered today as an iconic British symbol, when it was originally exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1821, it failed to find a buyer. However, it was considerably better received in France, winning praise from Théodore Géricault. In 1824 it caused a sensation when it was exhibited with other works by Constable at the Paris Salon. In that exhibition, The Hay Wain was singled out for a gold medal awarded by Charles X of France, a cast of which is now incorporated into the picture’s frame. Its composition had a profound effect on the work of the French artist Eugène Delacroix, who subsequently altered his style after studying Constable’s canvases and essays. Of Constable’s colour, Delacroix wrote in his journal: What he says here about the green of his meadows can be applied to every tone. Delacroix repainted the background of his Massacre de Scio (1824) after seeing the Constables at Arrowsmith’s Gallery, which he said had done him a great deal of good.

The Hay Wain was sold at the exhibition, along with three other Constable landscapes, to the dealer John Arrowsmith and subsequently brought back to England by another dealer, D. T. White, who then sold the painting to a Mr. Young, residing in Ryde on the Isle of Wight. It was there that it came to the attention of the collector Henry Vaughan and the painter Charles Robert Leslie. On the death of his friend Mr. Young, Vaughan bought the painting from the former’s estate; in 1886 he presented it to the National Gallery in London. In his will Vaughan bequeathed the full-scale oil sketch for The Hay Wain, made with a palette knife, to the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum).

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The oil study made for the painting

The site where ‘The Hay Wain’ was painted

Willy Lott’s Cottage, pictured in ‘The Hay Wain’

Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) — the leader of the French Romantic school, who was greatly influenced by Constable’s landscapes

CLOUD STUDY, 1822

During the summers of 1821 and 1822, whilst staying at Hampstead, Constable focused his attention on elevated locales on the Heath, painting as many as fifty oil sketches of clouds. He would add notations on the back of the canvases concerning the atmospheric conditions as to the time of day and the direction and speed of the wind. At first, these studies included treetops and parts of buildings, though soon he dispensed with all territorial connections. He painted the first of his pure cloud studies on 13 September 1821 with the notation: One o’clock. Slight wind at North West, which became tempestuous in the afternoon, with rain all the night following. Constable was understandably proud of his achievement in these paintings. You can never be nubilous, he wrote to his friend Archdeacon John Fisher in 1823. I am the man of clouds.

These oil studies demonstrate a remarkable understanding of the structure and movement of clouds, portraying a realistic impression of their three-dimensional volume. In the absence of a clearly stated purpose for the cloud studies, scholars have explored numerous motivations for these extraordinary works. It is tempting to conclude that Constable’s cloud studies combine scientific observation with poetic inspiration. Rather than passive impressions or observations from nature, the cloud studies appear to be overtly expressive, registering aesthetic programs and charting dominant moods suggested by his environment.

The cloud studies vary in size, with the following plate being one of only four examples he painted on a larger format, measuring 48 x 57 cm. The larger the scale of the cloud studies, the more difficult the artist found it to balance the fineness of detail with his speed of execution. For this reason, the larger cloud studies tend to be more generalised. The inscription on the back of this canvas, now found in London’s Tate Gallery, records: ‘11 o’clock. Noon,’ — indicating that the study took Constable about an hour to complete.

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Seascape Study with Rain Cloud, c.1824

A study of clouds and trees, a watercolour over pencil

THE LEAPING HORSE

This famous painting presents yet another iconic view of life in the Stour area that Constable knew so well from his childhood days.  The canvas illustrates a moment of sudden movement, as a horse pulling a barge has to leap a barrier, which is set across a tow path to stop cattle wandering from field to field. The Leaping Horse was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1825 and unlike The Hay Wain, this ‘Six Footer’ demonstrates a remarkable level of rich detail, when compared to the earlier work’s surface. During the creative process, Constable suffered much uncertainty, making many alterations. For this reason, the canvas has less of a topographically precise aspect than is found in some of the artist’s other large landscapes. However, the engaging drama of the horse and his rider, forever caught in the moment of the leap, enhanced by the low viewpoint, has ensured the painting’s fame ever since its first unveiling at the summer exhibition.

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The full oil sketch for ‘The Leaping Horse’

SALISBURY CATHEDRAL FROM THE BISHOP’S GROUNDS

Completed in 1823, this stunning image of Salisbury Cathedral was commissioned by one of Constable’s closest friends, John Fisher, the recently appointed Bishop of Salisbury. They had met a couple of years before, as Fisher was also an artist and their similar interests allowed them to become good friends. Over time, Fisher would also become one of Constable’s greatest patrons. The bishop was often called ‘King’s Fisher,’ in reference to his connection to the Royal Family and his patronage was a valuable asset to Constable. It is through their shared correspondence that we have learnt the most about Constable as an artist and man.

Constable first visited Salisbury in 1820 and made a series of oil sketches of the cathedral, serving as the model for this composition. He selected a viewpoint from the bishop’s garden, including figures of Fisher and his wife at the bottom left of the composition.  Following its exhibition at the 1823 Royal Academy, Constable observed: My Cathedral looks very well... It was the most difficult subject in Landscape I ever had upon my Easel. I have not flinched at the work of the windows, buttresses, &c. — but I have as usual made my escape in the Evanescence of the Chiaro-Oscuro. His patron took exception to the dark cloud over the cathedral and when he commissioned a smaller replica, requested a more serene sky.

Two major versions of the painting exist: one at the Frick Collection in New York (the following plate), which depicts a brighter and more temperate sky, compared to the London Victoria and Albert Museum version, which depicts the cathedral with an overcast sky.

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John Fisher by William Daniell, 1793

The more ‘overcast’ version housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

THE CORNFIELD

Finished in 1826 and exhibited at the Royal Academy in the same year, The Cornfield portrays a Stour scene of a lane leading from East Bergholt towards Dedham. Lying down by a stream, a young boy drinks water, while a nearby sheepdog looks over, appearing to await his return. The path depicted was the same that Constable walked himself as a boy to school, though the church glimpsed in the distance is believed to be an invention.

Whilst planning the composition, Constable paid particular attention to portraying several types of trees.  He wrote to Fisher in April 1826, The trees are more than usually studied and the extremities well defined — as well as their species — they are shaken by a pleasant and healthful breeze. The artist gave the painting considerable more detail than other canvases at that time and he went on to tell Fisher, "I do hope to sell this present picture, as it certainly has got a little more eye-salve than I usually condescend to give them’.

Surprisingly, the painting did not sell and following the artist’s death, a group of subscribers collected enough money in order to buy The Cornfield, allowing it to be donated to the National Gallery as the first of the artist’s works to enter the collection.  It can now be seen in the Sackler Room, where several of Constable’s most famous compositions can be viewed, including The Hay Wain.

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Entrance to London’s National Gallery’s Sackler Room, which features many masterpieces by English artists, including Turner’s ‘The Fighting Temeraire’, Joseph Wright ‘of Derby’s’ ‘An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump’, George Stubbs’ ‘Whistlejacket’ and Constable’s ‘The Hay Wain’ — all within a few metres of each other.

MARINE PARADE AND CHAIN PIER, BRIGHTON

Constable first visited Brighton, on England’s south coast, in 1824, taking Maria in a bid to restore her failing health. He returned frequently in the mid-1820s, making many drawings and sketches. He was not fond of the town, famously describing it as Piccadilly by the Seaside and the following plate is the artist’s only large painting of a Brighton subject. However, he was greatly impressed by the magnificence of the sea and the opportunity it afforded him in his art.

In the composition, Constable depicts the bustling life of the beach against the backdrop of Brighton’s new hotels, residential quarters and the Chain Pier itself. The pier opened in 1823, shortly before Constable’s first visit, though it was destroyed by a storm in 1896.

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