Thursday, December 30, 2010

Constable 5

One of the commenters asked for me to clarify the differences in the handling of the Constable and the Loraine. Here are examples of each. The Constable is below ( detail of the Haywain) and the Loraine above. These images are clickable and you may want to see them larger to get what I am pointing out.

The Constable is made of flecks of light and is less concerned with the formal evocation of form that the Lorain. The Lorain looks like a head of broccoli. It is invented looking, and is a studio evocation of a tree. The forms are clearly delineated one in front of another as the masses of the tree recede toward the sky. This is intellectually correct and it does express what happens in some ideal tree in Arcadia. The Constable however is a real tree. The reason why is this.....

Above is a Constable drawing of a tree, obviously done in the field. It is a tree portrait, not an idealized tree. This actual study of nature preceded the paintings that Constable made and informed them.

Loraine made an invented tree having all of the workings of a real tree, but not observed from nature. Loraine is so concerned about the solidity of form in his tree that he misses what Constable did not, the half dissolved in light aspect of a tree out in the sunlight. Constable painted what a real tree looked like, not the structure, explained. Loraine painted an intellectually reduced "everytree". Loraine's tree is overly symmetrical and Constable's tree is full of the odd little "happenings" that go on in nature that would never be invented in the studio. He has captured the complex randomness and unfathomable complexity of real nature.

Tomorrow I will talk about why Constable painted nature in this manner.

15 comments: said...

I remember you saying that landscape painting is essentially painting portraits of trees. This is a great example of that. A Lorraine tree is to a Constable tree as a Constable portrait to a Gainsborough portrait.

Anonymous said...

This is an illuminating comparison! I've been looking at landscape paintings all my life and didn't really know how to understand or express the difference between the works that look like Lorrain's and those that look like Constable's. I really enjoy your blog for things just like this, and hearing what you have to say about painting in general.

JonInFrance said...

Well, this is off topic, but I wanted to share my disappointment - tried for the Monet exhibition in Paris yesterday - but there was 3 and a half hours queue - both times I showed up - so I abandoned it. Oh well - pity.

LandPainter said...

See, this is where the curse or blessing of art applies. I happen to like the first tree better than Constables. It has a strong silhouette and the mass of the foliage is clumped together in an interesting shape. To me, the Constable seems too busy and actually makes me feel uneasy.

I think this sort of thing always comes down to personal preference. However, I love Constable's outdoor sketches. Now those sing!

Karla said...

I am amazed at anyone who can paint a tree like this. Are these individual brush strokes in the leaves or a stippling? People say people are the hardest to paint. I think trees are. Not that I'm any good at either.

billspaintingmn said...

True stories on the canvas are more nutritious than studio hors d' oeuvres.
Comparing Constable to Lorraine is apples & orenges.
I think Constable had a love and appreciation for his subjects.
Some viewers have a love for art, but not so much for the subject being painted.
Not all artists care to be nutritious, some go for the snacks.
The good side is that there is an appitite for art, and variety is the spice of life.
(sorry for the food analogies, I must be nuts!)
Happy New Years Everybody!

Sharon Weaver said...

My first plein air teacher told me that I don't paint pretty pictures, and he added, "You know that's a compliment, right?" The Lorraine is a 'pretty' picture. I wish I painted trees like Constable but am still getting it right. I love the idea of tree as portrait.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks, I do go on, don't I?

Stapleton Kearns said...

You have so much great art there.I loved my time street painting in Paris some years ago.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Do you own any roller skates?

Stapleton Kearns said...

EVERYTHING is hard to paint.

Stapleton Kearns said...

You must be hungry.Ear dinner and get back to me.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Your teacher said something that I heard a lot as a student.I think it was meant to be nice but the underlying assumption is a little off. It implies that paintings need to be edgy, relevant or whatever. I think it is enough for a picture ti just look good. What it looks like is important because it is a visual art. Messages are for writers, playwrights and pigeons.

LandPainter said...

I rest my case. Art is totally subjective. Some may say, "You can't paint every leaf on a tree" and yet others try. What is beautiful in one's eye may not be in someone else's.

Checkout the energy in this sketch by Constable!

Now that rocks!

Yes, I did go rollerskating, had rollerblades and numerous skateboards, bicycles, scooters and I even tried riding a unicycle! (Emphasis on "tried")

Love your blog, Stape!