Sunday, January 2, 2011

Constable 7

Here is a Constable of a boat being built next to the Flatford mill. I get some really great stuff via e-mail, a reader sent me a photo taken on a trip to Constable country that shows the location of the subject. That is below.
The dry dock has been filled in over the years with trash so it is not as deep as it was in Constables day, but evidently the stocks on which the boats were built are original. I am always interested in seeing the location of great paintings. I guess there were bigger trees across the river back then, but other than that, not much seems to have been changed.This boatyard was owned by John's father.

Constable made a drawing of the site in 1814 and the painting is based on that. A contemporary quoted Constable as having said this painting was made on the location. But it certainly must have been worked on in the studio too, at least it looks like it. The painting is dated 1815.

Above is a Constable drawing. I can't find an image of the boat building drawing, however this will serve as an example of the kind of preparatory drawings that Constable made.

Here is a partly finished Constable painting that will give some idea of his working manner. What it looks like to me is this. The canvas has been toned to a burnt sienna or red ocher color.

Here is a closeup of that. I wish I had a better image for you but that's what I have. This is certainly a studio piece as I suspect virtually all of his paintings are despite the popular description of him as having worked outside in plein air. That seems to have been for research for studio paintings and most of that appears to me to have been done in pencil. I have an old book with maybe a hundred carefully made pencil studies for paintings by Constable. This method would have been in keeping with how paintings were commonly made in that era. More on this tomorrow.


Deborah Paris said...

Name of the book, please!

Stapleton Kearns said...

The book is:
Constable: paintings,watercolours and drawings.
Published by the Tate Gallery

by Leslie Parris
Ian Fleming-Williams
Conal Shields

isbn# 0905005 15 5

Deb said...

Off topic, but have been devouring James Gurney's excellent book. Did you know you have a cameo appearance in it? Well, you are mentioned. Now I will have to get your autograph as well as James'!!
Happy New Year. (6 below zero here and our pipes froze)

Bernie's Art said...

The V&A museum usually has a selection of his notebooks on display.

The print and drawing room at Tate Britain has a large selection of his drawings and watercolours which one can see on request. A wonderful place to visit, but you must make an appointment. The Turner collection is superb.

Bob Carter said...

I love seeing incomplete paintings like this from famous artists for what they reveal about working methods. Any idea why this one was abandoned? Aside from the big tree kissing the rabbet, it's a very effective composition. The sky out-lorrain's Lorrain. From the reproduction it seems he brought much of it to a near-final state (especially the sky), except for the tree and the forground.

Bernie's Art said...

It would seem that Constable often did large preparatory paintings. There was an exhibition here in London at Tate Britain a short time ago, which showed the preparatory paintings alongside the finished article. In some cases i thought the preparatory work was livelier than the finished paintings.

Philip Koch said...

Years ago when I was in grad school at Indiana University I discovered Constable (thanks to one of my art history profs, whose PhD thesis was on Constable's cloud studies). In the art library there was a great fat little book that had 100 or so Constable graphite pencil drawings that he'd done out on location. (maybe it's the same book mentioned in this blog post).

I remember having my mind blown away by how incredible these drawings were. Though tiny, they combined incredible patterns in the foliage with great sweeping spaces and movement. What an incredible gust of wind to my sails! Hey, we all need heroes sometimes.

billspaintingmn said...

I know an artist that does a fairly detailed pencil drawing on his canvas. Puts a fixative over it and paints over the drawing.
I've tried that approch, but prefer not to paint that way.
Is that what Constable was doing?

Deborah Paris said...

Found the book! Its available both new and used for a reasonable price. I have about six books on Constable but not this one and I don't think I can resist that many drawings.

BTW, there is a fantastic book available through the Tate (and elsewhere) on the development of the six footers. It was, I believe, done as the catalog for the exhibit there a few years ago. It is expensive (or was when I got it) but SO worth it if you are a Constable freak (yes, flying my freak flag here).

Stapleton Kearns said...

Now your limbs and your pipes are broken.
Yes I did get a gracious mention in James Gurneys book. I am proud to be in there!.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have been there but not lately.I would love to go again!

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think the weather may have been was working against him that summer, their was a lot of rain. But also he wanted to make a more arranged or studio version. He kept the outdoor piece as notes. If he had tried to work it up he risked "losing" it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Maybe , there are published versions of his sketchbooks out there.

Stapleton Kearns said...

bill:It doesn't look to me like there was a super tight drawing transferred to the canvas, but as I research more I will give you a better answer.Part of doing a blog (about half in fact) is looking things up and finding things out> I have opinions but need to chase down the facts to bolster or disprove them to myself.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Yes I have put a link to the Tate book out on the post tonight.