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Sunday, 13 July 2014

John Constable

John Constable was born in East Bergholt, a village on the River Stour in Suffolk on June 11, 1776. He was the son of a wealthy corn merchant, Golding Constable, who owned several windmills and watermills

Constable was educated at  Dedham Grammar School in Suffolk.

He first worked in his father's mill. Constable's father was reluctant to let him pursue the uncertain career of an artist and insisted he went into the family business.

Realising that his son’s passion for art would not abate, Constable's father gave him an allowance enabling him to study at the Royal Academy in London. He attended classes there for two or three years, but essentially he was self-taught.

John Constable, Self-portrait 1806, pencil on paper, Tate Gallery London. His only indisputable self-portrait.

Constable fell in love with Maria Bicknell, a local girl whose solicitor father was personally acquainted with the king. They became engaged in 1809 against the wishes of her family, and who did not consider Constable good enough. After five years, they finally gave their consent to the marriage, following the death of Constable's father, which left him financially secure. Constable finally married Maria on October 2, 1816 at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London.

Maria Bicknell, painted by Constable in 1816

Constable first started painting the sea on his honeymoon in Dorset.

John Constable was 39 when he sold his first landscape painting.

In 1819 the family had moved to Hampstead, at this time still a village on the northern outskirts of London, and this was Constable’s home for the rest of his life (his house can still be seen there).

He came to love Hampstead Heath, which features in many of his paintings, as do scenes of Brighton, which he also periodically visited with Maria.

John Constable by Daniel Gardner, 1796. By Stephencdickson - Wikipedia Commons

Their marriage was a very happy one, but sadly short-lived; Maria died of tuberculosis in 1828, aged 40, leaving Constable with seven young children, on whom he doted.

Constable was a hero of the French salon and influenced painters like Delacroix. The King of France awarded him two gold medals. However the English public did not understand his simple country scenes.

Constable never visited France himself; indeed, he never left England.

He only sold twenty paintings in England during his lifetime and was not elected to the Royal Acamedy until he was 52, just eight years before his death.

In 1820 Constable exhibited Flatford Mill at Royal Academy. It was a mill, which belonged to his father in his birthplace of East Bergholt. Today the mill, which still stands is a Mecca for the painter’s work.

For Constable's The Hay Wain the artist used white marks like snowflakes to express the way that light gives landscape its freshness and sparkle.

John Constable The Hay Wain

When The Hay Wain was first exhibited in 1821 it failed to find a buyer. However, when it was first shown at the Paris Salon three years later, it created a sensation.

Constable died on the night of March 31, 1837 of heart failure, in the attic of his studio at 76 Charlotte Street, London. He was buried with Maria in the graveyard of St John-at-Hampstead, London.,

In 1843 his friend and fellow painter Charles Robert Leslie published his Memoirs of the Life of John Constable, and this affectionate book, one of the classics of artistic biography, did much to secure Constable’s posthumous fame.

In 1978 it was realised that a number of works attributed to Constable had been produced by other members of his family including his son, Lionel.

Source Encarta Encyclopedia

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