John Constable

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John Constable
Cottage in a Cornfield 1833 painting artwork by John Constable

Cottage in a Cornfield 1833

Bio
Born: 06/11/1776
Location: East Bergholt, England
Died: 03/31/1837
Age: 60
Movements Romanticism
Nationality English
Expertise Painting

John Constable was a self-taught English painter who is remembered for his contributions to the Romanticism movement. He is best known for landscape paintings, and his works depicting Dedham Vale in Suffolk are now among the most valued in the British art world.

Personal life

John Constable was born in the small village of East Bergholt, which is situated on the River Stour in Suffolk, England. His father was a wealthy corn merchant who owned a couple of mills in the area as well as a ship that was used to carry corn to London. He married his childhood friend and sweetheart, Maria Bicknell, despite the chagrin of her parents, who thought the Constable family to be their inferiors. The couple had seven children. Maria died from tuberculosis shortly after the birth of the seventh child in 1828, a loss from which Constable would never recover. He never remarried.

Career

As a youth, Constable was inspired by Claude Lorrain’s Hagar and the Angel, and persuaded his father to allow him to devote more of his time away from the family’s corn business so that he could work on his craft. He was a probationer in 1799 and a student of the Royal Academy in 1800, and he went on to exhibit there in 1802. Constable worked as a portraiture painter for a time, although he found the subject matter to be lackluster. It was on honeymoon to Brighton in 1816 that he developed a new technique that added more vivacious brushwork and brilliant colors to his paintings. He sold one of his first major works, The Hay Wain, during this time. It won a gold medal when it was exhibited in 1824 at the Paris Salon. Other notable works from this period include The Leaping Horse, Dedham Vale, and Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows. Following his wife’s death in 1828, Constable appeared to always be in an anxious mood. He used an inheritance received shortly before her death to pay for several mezzotints to be engraved and published, a venture that proved less than successful. He spent his remaining years creating art and delivering public lectures on landscape painting at venues such as the Royal Institution. He also used his influence to speak against the Gothic Revival movement. He died from an intestinal problem at age 60 and is buried in the family tomb in Hampstead.

Fun Facts

  • Constable’ held the belief that “no great painter was ever self-taught,” although he was a self-taught painter and is considered to be among the best landscape artists ever.
  • Constable dressed only in black after the death of his wife.
  • John Constable could have made more money during his time if he had traveled abroad to promote his work but was quoted as saying that he’d “rather be a poor man in England than a rich man abroad.”

Related Artists

References

Some Examples of John Constable’s Artwork

Mill at Gillingham Dorset 1825-26 painting artwork by John Constable

Mill at Gillingham Dorset 1825-26

Weymouth Bay painting artwork by John Constable

Weymouth Bay

Cloud Study 1821 (Oil on Paper Laid Down on Board) oil painting artwork by John Constable

Cloud Study 1821 (Oil on Paper Laid Down on Board)