Artist Of The Month: John Constable
John Constable - British Landscape Artist
John Constable (11 June 1776 – 31 March 1837) might be recognized today as one of the greatest English landscape painters but he was never financially successful in his lifetime and remained unrecognized by the British Art establishment until he was 52 years old. In France, however, he directly influenced the artists of the Romantic School, the Barbizon School, and later the Impressionists.
Constable was born in East Bergholt, Suffolk. His father was a wealthy corn merchant who owned several mills and even his own small ship. John was the second son in the family, but his elder brother was mentally handicapped so John was expected to take over the family business after leaving school. His heart however was not in it. During his school years he would take sketching trips in the local countryside which awakened his artistic spirit and, in his own words, "made me a painter, and I am grateful."
In 1799 Constable persuaded his father to let him study art at the Royal Academy Schools where he copied Old Masters and attended life drawing classes. He was inspired by artists like Gainsborough and Rubens. Turner was a fellow student, but the two artists were never friends and while Turner went on to achieve success, Constable sold just 20 paintings in his lifetime.
He married his childhood sweetheart, Maria Bicknell, in 1816 after a seven-year courtship. Maria’s family had opposed the marriage because Constable was penniless, despite the fact that he had been exhibiting at the Royal Academy since 1803 and painted portraits in order to make some money. It was only when Constable’s parents died and he inherited a share of the family business that the couple were able to marry.
John and Maria were a happy couple and had seven children, and this happiness is reflected in Constable’s art. His brushwork became stronger, his color more brilliant. He captured sunlight in daubs of pure yellows and whites, and rendered stormy skies with a rapid brush. He painted the places he loved, particularly sceneries of his native Suffolk and Hampstead where he lived after marrying Maria. He made oil sketches outside, but always produced the finished pictures in his studio.
In 1819 the sale of his first large-scale painting, The White Horse, led Constable to produce other large-scale works, which he called "six-footers", and in 1824 The Hay Wain, won a gold medal at the Paris Salon. In 1829 the Royal Academy reluctantly made Constable a member by a majority of only one vote.
His work though was greatly appreciated in France, especially by Delacroix. But Constable refused to move there, stating that "I would rather be a poor man in England than a rich man abroad."
In 1828 Maria died of tuberculosis shortly after giving birth to their seventh child. She was forty-one years old. Constable fell into depression for the rest of his life and, even though he had seven children to care for, suffered from anxiety and always dressed in black. As he wrote to his brother "…the face of the World is totally changed to me" and he never recovered.
Constable died in 1837 and was buried in Hampstead next to his wife. He did not have any artistic successors in England even though there were many imitators, including his son, Lionel. But the real legacy of the man who had once said "painting is but another word for feeling" was the influence he would have on French artists through to the Impressionists.
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Art in the News:
The World’s Oldest Oil Paintings
Japanese researchers have dated the Buddhist murals in the Bamiyan caves to around 650 A.D. Produced with oil paints they rank as the world’s oldest oil paintings.
The Bamiyan caves once housed two gigantic 1500 year-old Buddha statues, destroyed by the Taliban in 2001; however, the murals, which portray thousands of Buddhas all dressed in vermilion robes, survived the damage and are being restored by a group of Japanese, European and American scientists.
The murals also portray crouching monkeys, mythical creatures and delicate renditions of palm leaves, all showing strong Chinese and Indian influences. They are thought to have been painted by artists traveling on the ancient Silk Road.
Oil painting was generally considered to have started in Europe shortly before the Renaissance.
Mona Lisa No Mystery To German Experts
Who was the lady behind the Mona Lisa? German experts believe they have solved the centuries-old riddle of her identity, Reuters reports.
The long-time favorite candidate for the model behind Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting was long held to be Lisa Gherardini, wife of wealthy Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocondo (hence the painting’s nickname, La Gioconda). However, over the years there has been a lot of speculation as to who the mysterious Gioconda really was – was she da Vinci’s mother? Or his mistress?
But now all doubts about the mysterious lady’s identity have been dispelled by a discovery made by Dr. Armin Schlechter, manuscript expert at Heidelberg University. The University library possesses a book in which notes were scribbled in the margins in 1503 by Agostino Vespucci, an official of the city of Florence, who knew da Vinci personally. The comments note that da Vinci was working on three paintings, one of them being a portrait of – Lisa del Giocondo.
Lisa del Giocondo was first named as the model for the Mona Lisa by Italian art historian Vasari in 1550, but he was thought to have been unreliable because the estimation was made 50 years after da Vinci painted the portrait.
Outside the Lines
Art Trivia - British artists
J.M.W Turner once had himself tied to a ship’s mast in order to paint a storm.
The English artist George Stubbs preferred painting horses to people.
Contemporary British artist Andy Brown stitched together 1,000 used tea bags to create a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.
The real title of the famous painting known as "Whistler’s Mother" by James McNeill Whistler is "Arrangement in Black and Gray No. 1".