By Mitch Rice
The art style manifests his psyche and other attributes such as creativity, magnificence, and an enigma of form. John Constable was an English painter whose paintings ushered in the romantic tradition and popularized the landscape painting style. In this painting style, the depiction of natural scenes such as trees, rivers, mountains, etc., is of paramount significance.
An exciting feature of this type of painting is that it is not entirely the figment of the artist’s imagination, and some nuances of the artwork are also based on reality. The art style of Constable was rebellious in the sense that it deviated from the conventional idea of only using imagination to compose a painting. Instead, he based a considerable amount of his artworks on nature and took pride in its evolution.
Constable revolutionized landscape painting as a genre during the 19th century, and it impacted the art form in Europe and France as well. He deviated from the established norms of fiction and moved toward realism, depicting nature in its proper form without any adornments. His paintings manifested bucolic scenes of the countryside and were quite impressionistic.
The article talks about the versatile style of John Constable and the efficacy with which he created his art. Several paintings created by him have been selected, which allows us to learn about John Constable.
Dedham Vale(1802): Serenity Amidst War
John Constable was fascinated with changing weather patterns, movement of clouds, etc., and sought to capture them on his canvas. He resorted to losing brushstrokes and rejected the traditional art style of invisible brushstrokes with austerity. His diverse use of a wide range of colors added more hue and charm to his paintings, thus invigorating his art style.
Dedham Vale was one of the first important artwork by John Constable and was created against the backdrop of the French Revolutionary war. The serenity captured in the painting depicts the aftermath of war and the prevalent political turmoil. Moreover, John Constable paintings demonstrate his fascination with nature, trees, minute detailing of the sky, etc. On observing the painting more closely, the viewer can see the tower of Dedham Church in the background along the river.
The formation of trees on both sides renders the eye towards the focal point of the painting, i.e., the Church tower. Apart from the delineated pathway and beautiful sky, the audience is charmed by its picturesque view.
Maria Bicknell(1816): Transcending Love
John Constable painted this portrait of his fiancee in remarkable likeness and used loose brushstrokes for the picture’s background.
This painting is unique because it is refreshingly honest and is based on an actual person, thus capturing the personality of his fiancee. He did not cover the peculiarities of her character; instead, he painted them honestly for the audience. The portrait is not glorified in any sense to adhere to the beauty standards of contemporary times.
The painting depicts warmth and bias due to the intimate relationship shared by the painter with the sitter. Constable artist exquisitely uses his landscape technique in portraying Maria Blicknell as he has obliterated unnecessary artifice and painted her naturally.
The White Horse(1819): Traditions vs. Modern
The White Horse painting was carved on a large canvas and categorized into six-footers. The six-footer paintings were made on large canvases. It was initially known as A Scene on the River Stour and was displayed at the Royal Academy in 1819. Constable first drafted a rough oil sketch before the final magnificent composition to create this drawing.
The painting depicts rural country life in its natural form, devoid of embellishments. That’s not all! The painting shows people adhering to their customs, traditions, and work ethics tenaciously despite the looming threat of industrialization.
John Constable did not glorify the working class or celebrate their work; instead, he presented them honestly in his painting. The picture also captures the rural vegetation, water, sky, etc.
The Hay Wain(1821): Breaking the shackles of Tradition
The painting abounds in Constable’s massive palette of colors to distinguish between different forms of vegetation. Another aspect of the painting could be the reflection of the grit and determination of the workers. The tree in the middle of the soggy bank clinging precariously can be an example of old faith and tradition.
It is considered a remarkable painting in which the river Stour divides the Counties of Suffolk and Essex. A cottage is also seen on the left side of the painting, and in the middle of the water, a cart is also seen. It is assumed that the coach is standing in water to avoid shrinking the metal rims of the wooden wheels due to the sun’s heat. The color tones used in the painting are very distinct, and the image of the sky is reflected in the water.
One can also see the far-off meadows and trees on the sides and the distinctive strokes of white paint in the background. The image is an epitome of optimism and carefully renders the color palette, thus, enabling the viewer to witness nature’s glory without any exaggeration.
Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows(1831): Glaring Hope
Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows(1831) is a manifestation of John Constable’s grief at the death of his wife. The violent storm in the sky and the rainbow are the culmination of the suffering experienced by Constable and his inner turmoil.
The image of the rainbow symbolically represents spiritual hope amidst violence and disaster. Yet, it also seems that a mysterious element pervades the blustery sky overshadowing the empirical reality.
The Carriage in the front, the dark atmosphere, and the cathedral in the background create a gory atmosphere further lightened by a sparkling rainbow.
Constable opted for an unconventional painting style and used his artifice to compose preliminary sketches to achieve perfection. His artworks were presented with finesse before the audience and conveyed the expressiveness of his mind. His unique artistic style was also imbued with scientific aspects of research on landscapes and atmospheric conditions.
Constable’s liberal brushstrokes enthralled the audience, encapsulating their psyche in the realm of truth and darkness. His approach towards nature was distinct as he painted everything he saw with a fresh perspective. The laborious task of translating a wide range of scenes into one finished composition was indeed cumbersome for John Constable. However, his artworks exude his prowess, and John Constable paintings testify to his skill as a painter.
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