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John Constable

John Constable, the greatest of English landscape painters, came from
the Suffolk, and it was from the Suffolk landscape that he drew his
inspiration. Constable’s affection for nature was great and his mastery
to show the much loved English scene reached its marvelous peak. He
always attempted to depict the transient effects of nature: light,
clouds and rain.

Constable was an acute observer of nature and had a romantic passion for
light. Constable’s method of painting was nearest to Impressionism. His
treatment of skies is especially notable. No one has painted cloud
effects so truthfully and with so much skill.

John Constable was one of the major European landscape artists of the
XIX century, whose art was admired by Delacroix and Gericault and
influenced the masters of Barbizon and even the Impressionists, although
he did not achieved much fame during his lifetime in England, his own
country. John Constable was born in East Bergholt, Suffolk, on 11 June
1776, the fourth child and second son of Ann and Golding Constable. His
father was a prosperous local corn merchant who inherited his business
from an uncle in 1764. Constable was educated at Dedham Grammar School,
where he distinguished himself more by his draughtsmanship than his
scholarship. In 1793 his father decided to train him as a miller and,
consequently, Constable spent a year working on the family mill, which
helped him to determine his course of life: he would be an artist.

In 1796-1798 he took lessons from John Thomas Smith and later
from George Frost, who supported his love of landscape painting and
encouraged him to study Gainsborough’s works. In 1700 he entered the
Royal Academy Schools. As a student he copied Old Master landscapes,
especially those of Jacob van Ruisdael. Though deeply impressed by the
work of Claude Lorrain and the watercolours of Thomas Girtin, Constable
believed the actual study of nature was more important than any artistic
model. He refused to «learn the truth second-hand». To a greater degree
than any other artist before him, Constable based his paintings on
precisely drawn sketches made directly from nature. His most notable
picture of his early works are Dedham Vale (1802), ‘A Church Porch’ (The
Church Porch, East Bergholt) (1809), Dedham Vale: Morning (1811),
Landscape: Boys Fishing (1813), Boatbuilding (1814), Wivenhoe Park
(1816), Weymouth Bay (1816). Flatford Mill (1817) was his last work of
the period, created en plein-air.

He married Maria Bicknell in 1816 and they settled in London.
After 1816 he changed the method of his work turning away from realistic
agrarian landscapes such as Landscape: Ploughing Scene in Suffolk (A
Summerland) (1814). Now he was working mostly in his studio in London
and had to work out the image from his memory, starting each picture
from a full-size sketch. The sketches enabled his memory to develop
gradually until everything he could remember about the scene was
satisfactorily suggested. At this point he would begin the finished
painting. Each of his large canvass starting with The White Horse (1819)
and continuing through Landscape: Noon (The Hay-Wain) (1821), The Lock
(A Boat Passing a Lock) (1824), The Leaping Horse (1824-1825), The
Cornfield (1826) was fulfilled in this way.

Although he never was popular in England, some of his works were
exhibited in Paris and achieved instant fame. In 1829 he was finally
elected a Royal Academician. His other important works of these period
were Hampstead Heath (c.1820), Salisbury Cathedral, from the Bishop’s
Grounds (1823), A Mill at Gillingham in Dorset (Parham’s Mill) (1826),
Dedham Vale (1828), Hadleigh Castle (1829), Old Sarum (1829), Salisbury
Cathedral, from the Meadows (1831). He died on 31st of March, 1837
working on his last picture Arundel Mill and Castle (1837).

Note

Holiday of Waterloo in East Bergholtban. This is an unusual painting for
Constable, in which he depicts a folk holiday in honor of the Waterloo
victory. Folks hang a dummy of Napoleon.

See: John Constable. Holiday of Waterloo in East Bergholt.

Bibliography:

John Constable. The Man and His Work. by C. Peacock. London. 1965.

John Constable. by A. Tchegodayev. Moscow. 1968.

John Constable’s Correspondence. by R. B. Beckett. London. 1968.

Painting of Europe. XIII-XX centuries. Encyclopedic Dictionary. Moscow.
Iskusstvo. 1999.

Constable (World of Art) by Michael Rosenthal. Thames & Hudson, 1987.

Memoirs of the Life of John Constable (Arts & Letters) by Charles Robert
Leslie, Jonathan Mayne (Editor). Phaidon Press Inc., 1995.

The Early Paintings and Drawings of John Constable: Text and Plates by
Graham Reynolds. Paul Mellon Center , 1996.

Constable: The Life and Masterworks by Barry Venning. Parkstone Press ,
2005.

John Constable: The Man and His Art by Ronald Parkinson. Victoria &
Albert Museum, 1998.

Constable and His Drawings by Ian Flemming-Williams. Philip Wilson
Publishers, 1990.

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