Monday, December 27, 2010
John Constable 2
Constable manged to earn a living painting portraits but barely scraped by financially. His portraits were priced rather low compared to his contemporaries and having seen a few of them the reason seems clear enough. He was employed sometimes to make copies of other artists portraits by their owners. he did however receive a yearly stipend from the family milling and grain shipping business now run by a brother.
He married his childhood friend Maria Bicknell in 1816, she bore him seven children and died of tuberculosis in
1828. He dressed in black for the rest of his life and raised his seven children alone.
In 1819 Constable painted the "Haywain" the first of a series of what he called his six footers. This painting was seen by Theodore Gericault and he was picked up by a Parisian dealer who sold his paintings there with some success. The Haywain was shown at the salon in Paris and won a gold medal.
In Constables day the fashion was for landscapes like those of Claude Loraine with ruins and picturesque views often of Italy and including romantic figures of Gypsies or mythological figures. His naturalistic paintings were puzzling to the British, although the French had a greater appreciation for them. He was never extremely successful but was elected to the Royal Academy at the age of 52.
Part of what held Constable back was the hierarchy of painting as established by Joshua Reynolds. Those of you who have been teething on this blog for a while will remember my "translations" of the discourses of Josh Reynolds. Reynolds felt that the highest form of painting was history or allegorical painting, and that the other genres descended below it to landscape painting as the least important. In Constables time that was changing and Gainsborough and Turner eventually became respected for landscape paintings. Still Constables naturalistic paintings of everyday scenes were puzzling to his audience who expected more drama and less "real life".
Constable gave a series of well received lectures for the the Royal Academy on the history of landscape painting. He died in 1837 and was buried next to his wife.Today constable is remembered as England's greatest landscape painter, although some would prefer to place Turner in that spot.