Thursday, 18 September 2014

Constable: A Country Rebel


Alistair Sooke has been profiling the nineteenth-century English painter, John Constable in this recent programme.  Much of the info was biographical and included the story of how little Constable was accepted as an artist during his life and his personal struggles in  marrying his wife against her family's wishes, and losing her to illness at an early age.  Although he is associated with his famous paintings of the Stour valley in Suffolk, he lived in London and, unexpectedly, Brighton, later in his life.  

While in Brighton he met the famous scientist Faraday and became friendly with him.  Constable maintained that painting was a science, and he related more to scientists such as Faraday than he did to fellow artists.  His cloud studies were revolutionary in their close and realistic examination, and his clear vision of landscape predated the Impressionists half a century later.

Although he was scientific in his approach, he also famously said that "painting is another word for feeling" and I would say this is true of drawing and other kinds of art as well.  Later in his life he painted great numbers of canvases and his brushwork become simpler and more powerful.  Sooke suggests that he was increasingly painting his emotional truth and the "psychodrama in his head".  Many artists find this power and simplicity later in life.  I think of Titian and Matisse, just off the top of my head.

Sooke presented a very human portrait of Constable and also gave insight into his art.  During his lifetime he was celebrated in France, but never in England.

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