John Constable: Artist Portrait

John Constable

Born 1776. Died 1837.
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John Constable Biography

English artist John Constable was an innovative landscape painter who depicted the English countryside through relatively loose brushwork, developing a soft visual atmosphere. His technique of en-plein-air painting predated the Impressionists, who later popularized the method of painting outside rather than in a studio. Constable synthesized the Romanticism of Thomas Gainsborough with the serenity of Dutch landscape painting, and took additional inspiration from the Baroque styles of Claude Lorrain or Nicolas Poussin to produce a pioneering landscape style of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Born in East Bergholt, England, in 1776, Constable was largely a self-taught artist, though he eventually enrolled at the Royal Academy in London in 1800 where he studied the works of Peter Paul Rubens, Annibale Carracci and Jacob van Ruisdael. His works exhibited a fresh lightness that was in opposition to the contemporary popular trends of Romanticism and Neoclassicism, and he continually insisted that painters should work from nature rather than from their own imaginations or explorations of psychology. Constable developed his personal style by using broken brushstrokes in order to achieve glistening or seemingly moving light – an effect that would become an early influence on the Impressionists. Though he had difficulty selling his works in England, his work was well received at the French salons where his relative success allowed him to sell increasingly larger canvases. Such sales would ultimately finance his major paintings for which he is now best known, including The Hay Wain (1821), which greatly influenced the French masters Théodore Géricault and Eugène Delacroix. Despite his success in Paris, he preferred developing his career in his native England, and he was happily elected to the Royal Academy in 1829.

Constable’s plein-air painting and relatively experimental brushwork, with which he documented the realities of the English countryside and scenes of everyday life, significantly influenced the development of western Modernism in Paris. His works can be found in major collections including the Louvre Museum, Paris, the National Gallery, London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, among others.

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Artist Image: Credit: The Print Collector / Alamy Stock Photo
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