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NEWNES'ART 
8I^IBRARYB 




NE^WNES^ART 
aivIBRARYS 



CONSTABLE'S 
SKETCHES 






CONSTABLE'S 
SKETCHES 

IN OIL S WATER COLOVRS 




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LONDON'.GEORGENEWNES LIMITED 

SOVTHAMPTON- STREET- STRAND W-C 
NEWYORK:FREDERICKWA«NE&CO-36EAST-22'!^Sr. 



CoNTl-N'l\S. 



iii(),L;i;ii)liic,il Nolf. IJy Sik |.\.\ll-.s I). I.inton, K.l. 
Constalilf s Art 



\iii. 



List of Illustrations, 



Coloured Illuslrations - 

Skctcli for "'l"hc Valley Farm" 
Suuly of the Stem ot an Flin Tree . 

A Mill near Hrij^hton 

A Sluice on the Stour 

\'ie\v in the Close, Salisbin-y 

A Rustic r)uildin_i;' 

Landscape with Water 

A Valley Scene with Trees . 

Willy Lotl's House, near Flatford Mill 

A Wooden Bridge over the Stour 

A Study of Trees and Sky 

\'iew at Stoke-by- Xayland 

Study of Tree Stems .... 

Salisbury Cathedral 

Hay-field in Suffolk — Sunset 

Brighton Beach with Colliers 

Landscape with Figures . 

\'iew at East Bergholt, Suffolk 

"The C.rove," Hampstead 

Heath Scene, Hampstead 

Brighton Beach ..... 

Sketch in a Wood 

Mew at Hampstead Heath 

On the Stour, near Dedham . 

The Hay- Wain ..... 

Coast Scene with Shi])ping . 

Weymouth Bay ... 

A Study of Trees : Evening . 

A \'illage Fair ..... 

Spring ...... 

Porch of East Bergholt Church 



l'')i)lltispivCi 



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LIST OV Il.I.rsrRAllONS Co/i/iiiiirJ. 

PaRO 

A Mill near Hrij;htoii 30 

Study of Sky and Trees ........... 31 

L;indscape with Kiyures .......... 32 

Study for "The Leapinj^ Horse" 33 

Dedliani Mill and Cluireh, Essex 34 

View at Dedhani, .Suffolk ........... 35 

I^indscape Study 3^^ 

View in Dedhain \'ale, Suflolk 17 

Dedhani \'ale. Suffolk 38 

CtKist Scene with Fishinj^ Boats 39 

On the Skirts of a Wood 40 

Landscape and Cart 4 ' 

View at Hanipstead Heath .......... 42 

The House of (lolding Constable, Esi|., at Kasl ncr.^holl .... 43 

\"iew on the Stoiir ............ 44 

.Autumnal Sunset ............ 45 

Old Sarum, Wilts .... 46 

.A Sketch for " The X'alley Farm " 47 

A Shed, Cottages, and a Windmill 48 

\'iew at Borrowdale, Cumberland 49 

\iew at Horrowdale, Cumberland 50 

Stoke I'oges Church, Bucks ... ...... 5 1 

Fittleworth Mill, Sussex 5- 

Mountain Scene in Cumberland 53 

\'iew at Borrowdale, Cumljerhuid 34 

Stonehenge, Wilts 55 

Old Houses at Harnhani Bridge, Salisbury 56 

Ruins of Cowdray 57 

Tillington Church 5^ 

Cottage near Reading 59 

Cottage in Sutitolk <^o 

I'ond and Cottages : A Storm approaching '')i 

A \illage on a River 62 

-At Hampstead ..........••• 63 

A Seaport with a Siorm passing ......... (^ 




JOHN CONSTABLE 

BY SIR JAMES I). LINTON, RT. 




BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 

OHN CONSTABLE was born on June nth, 1776, 
at East Bergholt, in Suffolk, a district that remained 
the chief inspiration of his work throughout the 
whole of his life. He was a weak child, and his 
career at school was far from brilliant. His father, 
a miller with a large trade, desired that his son 
should enter one of the professions, the Church 
for preference. But the lad had made up his mind to become 
a painter, an occupation his father at first refused to allow him to 
follow. As time passed on it became obvious that Constable had 
no vocation for the Church, and he entered the family business. 
Here he remained until about the 3'ear 1795, seeking every oppor- 
tunity to practise the art of painting. He had for company a friendly 
enthusiast, John Dunthorne, the village plumber and glazier. In 
the daytime they sketched from nature ; at night they copied 
engravings after Raphael and Claude, or water colours by Girtin. 
Constable received much encouragement from Sir George Beaumont, 
a capable amateur landscape painter who had a great veneration 
for the old masters, and was in the habit of carrying a favourite 
canvas by Claude (No. 61 in the National Gallery, London) wherever 
he travelled. Struck by Constable's promise, the baronet interested 
himself in the boy's desire to become an artist. At length the 
elder Constable consented that his son should settle in London 
and become definitely a student. In 1799 John Constable entered 
the schools of the Royal Academy, and, receiving an allowance 



CONS rAHI.K 

from his fatlicr and the i)roc'e(."(ls ot an oci-asional sale, ho scoiiis to 
have lived without any i^reat hardship, l^iit, whilst workinj;- in the 
nictropohs. he was constantly looking forward to lortlieoniing \isits 
toSuffolU. I le was never a Londoner in spirit. Years alter (in iSji) 
he wrote: — "The Londoners, with all iheii ingenuity as artists, know 
nothing of the feelings of a country life, the essence of landscape." 
In 1799 he wrote to his old friend John Dunthorne : — "This fine 
weather almost makes me melancholy; it recalls so forcibly every 
scene we have visited and drawn together. I even love every stile 
and stump, and ever^' lane in the village, so deep rooted are early 
impressions. 

Like many lovers of nature. Constable was somewhat of a recluse, 
and disliked societ}'. He possessed several good friends, however. 
Sir George Beaumont has already been mentioned. Many years 
after, Constable visited Beaumont at Cole-Orton, and his letters 
contain several ■ interesting references to his doings. From them 
Leslie in his "Life" compiles the following stories. 'Though Sir 
George Beaumont and Constable agreed, general]}', in their opinions 
of the old masters, yet their tastes differed materially on some points 
of art, and their discourse never languished for want of "an animated 
no." A constant communion with pictures, the tints of which are 
subdued by time, no doubt tends to unfit the eye for the enjoyment 
ot freshness ; and Sir George thought Constable too daring in the 
modes he adopted to obtain this quality ; while Constable saw that 
Sir George often allowed himself to be deceived by the effects of 
time, of accident, and by the tricks that are, far oftener than is 
generally supposed, played by dealers, to give mellowness to pictures ; 
and, in these matters, each was disposed to set the other right. Sir 
George had placed a small landscape b}' Caspar Poussin on his easel, 
close to a picture he was painting, and said, " Now, if I can match 
these tints I am sure to be right." "But suppose. Sir George,'' 
replied Constable, "Caspar could rise from his grave, do you think 
he would know his own picture in its present state? or if he did, 
should we not find it difficult to persuade him that somebod}' had not 
smeared tar or cart grease over its surface, and then wiped it 
imperfectly off?" At another time, Sir George recommended the 
colour of an old Cremona fiddle for the prevailing colour of every- 
thing, and this Constable answered by laying an old fiddle on the 
green lawn before the house. Again, Sir George, who seemed to 
consider the autumnal tints necessary, at least to some part of a 



CONSTABLE 

landscape, said, " Do you not find il \c'r\' difflcidt to dctci'minc where 
to place your hrocvn tree?'' And the reply was, "Not in the least, for 
I never put such a thin^- into a picture.'" 

Before 1811 Constable had been fortunate enough to make the 
acquaintance of the Rev. John Fisher (after Archdeacon, and chaplain 
to the Bishop of Salisbury ), which ultimately ripened into a fast and 
lasting friendship. The painter owed much to the warm encourage- 
ment and help which Archdeacon Fisher never failed to give. 
Another event had a marked influence upon Constable's future. He 
fell in love with Maria Bicknell, daughter of the solicitor to the 
Admiralty, and grand-daughter of the rector of Bergholt. The 
courtship was a long one, for Dr. Rudde, the rector, resolutely set 
his face against the engagement. The marriage did not take place 
until October, 1816. 

Constable exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first time in 
1802, and in 1819 was elected an Associate. Although his position 
as an artist was then assured, his pictures fetched comparatively 
small prices, and his art lacked the appreciation it deserved. The 
year 1824 was the most eventful of his life. Three of his pictures 
were exhibited in Paris, where they made a remarkable sensation 
amongst the French artists. P"rom Charles X. Constable received a 
gold medal as a reward and acknowledgement of the great artistic 
merit of his works. When exhibited at the town of Lille they 
received a second medal. These honours increased the fame of 
Constable, but they do not seem to have had much effect upon his 
financial prosperity. The most celebrated of the canvases is the Hay- 
Wain, now in the National Gallery, having been bequeathed to that 
institution by the late Mr. Vaughan. 

In 1829 Constable was elected a full member of the Royal 
Academ}', and this marked the culmination of his career. Before his 
election Constable moved his family from London to Hampstead. 
The heath of this village so charmed him that, next to the county in 
which he was born, Hampstead Heath from that time supplied him 
with most of his subjects. Hampstead, Bergholt, and Salisbur}- 
were the main sources of his inspiration. Early in his career he 
made a sketching tour through Cumberland, but the north country 
was not sympathetic (he told Leslie that the solitude of the mountains 
oppressed his spirits), and he never produced any important pictures 
based upon the results of bis studies in that region. In 1830 Con- 
stable commenced to publish a set of mezzotint engravings from his 



CONSIAIM.K 

paintini;"s and studios, admirably roproduccd in thai ])r(>rcss by 
David Lucas. Towards tlic end ot" his lite hv dclixcrcd a series of 
lectures upon Landscape Art, ctMitainini;" the results ot his ex|)erience, 
observation, and prat^tice. From these lectures students can gather 
many truths and much kno\\ledi;"e. 

Constable died very suddenlv on April ist, 1837, and was 
buried in the churchyard of Hampstead. His lile was not a long 
one. but it was unitormly |)eacet'ul. lie had many disappointments, 
and one great sorrow. At the same time he had com])ensations 
which do not tall to the lot of all men. He loved his family ; he was 
loved by his friends. Above all he was supremely happy in the 
practice of his art. "It is a great happiness," says Bacon, "when 
men's professions and their inclinations accord." Constable had 
discovered this truth himself, for the quotation is the closing 
sentence in the last lecture he delivered upon the art he adorned so 
brilliantlv. 




CONSTABLE'S ART 

OWING to various causes few painters of the English school 
have been so misappreciated as Constable. Until a few 
years ago (when South Kensington Museum acquired the 
collection of drawings, sketches, and studies) the produc- 
tions of his middle and late periods alone had been seen by the public. 
His early pictures, worked with the utmost care even to the verge of 
hardness, were hardly known and are now rarel}' seen. Hence, 
although Constable was admitted to be one of our foremost landscape 
painters, he was not accepted as a draughtsman, and his robust 
technique was considered almost coarse. These opinions were still 
more accentuated by the criticism of Ruskin, to whom the art of 
Constable was to a large extent unsympathetic. The broad and 
massive treatment which Constable emplo^^ed was utterly opposed 
to the methods and processes advocated by Ruskin in his writings 
concerning the technical education of the painter. Ruskin's keen and 
subtle appreciation of Turner seems to have prevented him from 
entering into the spirit of Constable's work. 

Constable's aims are tersel}^ put in the biograph}' by Leslie. He 
painted light, dews, breezes, bloom, and freshness. In his oil 
sketches and studies we see how earnestly he worked to attain these 
qualities, the ver}' life and soul of landscape art. In his pictures we 
note how paramount in importance he deemed it to retain and realise 
them. " There is room cnoitgli for a natural painter,'' he wrote in 1802. 
"The great vice of the present day is bravura, an attempt to do 
something beyond the truth. Fashion always had, and will have, its 
day; but truth in all things will last, and can only have just claims 
on posterity." His point of view never altered. Constable, like all 
men with original ideas, was in advance of his time. In his day 
Landscape Art was considered by most people to be inferior to 
figure painting. This is well illustrated by the story told of Sir 
Thomas Lawrence, who was President of the Royal Academy at the 
time of Constable's election. It was, and still is, the custom for 



CONSTABLE 

those newly elected into the fold of the Academy to call ui)on the 
members and thank them individually for the honour conferred. 
When Constable called upon Sir Thomas he was met b}' the chilling 
remark that "he might consider himself fortunate, as there were 
historical painters waiting for election." 

Landscape art was ignored. Out of all the distinguished land- 
scape painters of this country only three of the first rank have been 
elected members of the Ro\'al Acadeni}', viz., Wilson, Turner, and 
Constable. After Constable not one of the landscape painters now 
-recognised as masters has been received into that body. If we take 
the period in which Lee, Witherington, and Cresvvick were members, 
we find amongst the "outsiders" Bonington, Miiller, Cotman, De 
Wint, David Cox, George Barret, jun., and John Linnell. These 
men are admittedly masters of their art, not only in water colour 
painting, but also in oils. This neglect can never be repaired, 
although it is somewhat condoned by the honourable positions given 
to the works of these painters in the loan exhibitions held at 
Burlington House every winter. 

Constable was a liberal man in his artistic tastes, and ever ready 
to acknowledge influences valuable to him in the practice of his art. 
In his letters he makes constant references to his predecessors to 
whom he was indebted, and writes of them with admiration and 
gratitude. He speaks often of his studies from Claude, Ruysdael, 
and others, and especially does he express his admiration for Richard 
Wilson, an artist who is even now far from being full}^ recognised. 
In a letter dated 1823, Constable thus writes : " I went to the gallery 
of Sir John Leicester to see the English artists. I recollect nothing 
so much as a large solemn, bright, warm, fresh landscape by Wilson, 
which still swims in m}' brain like a delicious dream. Poor Wilson. 
Think of his fate, think of his magnificence. But the mind loses its 
dignity less in adversity than in prosperity. He is now walking arm 
in arm with Milton and Linnaeus. He was one of those appointed 
to show the world the hidden stores and beauties of nature." What 
a tribute to Wilson's art! One can hardly imagine that the man to 
whom such words could appl}', words coming from a master of his 
craft, lived a life of comparative penur}^ Wilson would probabl^^ 
have starved if the Royal Academy had not conferred upon him a 
small post in their institution. Constable's own experience must 
have told him how hard was the life, and how bitter was the 
disappointment of Wilson. 



CONSTABLE 

We know that Constable was not comincrcially successful as an 
artist. His works were never popular, because his aims were never 
understood. His robust vigour was repellent to the average man. 
Especiall}' were his productions disliked when he endeavoured to 
represent the glistening and broken lights on meadow and foliage b}^ 
the process called "spotting." This method might have looked over 
emphasized when the picture was freshly painted. But now, when 
time has softened the surface, it takes a right place, and prevents the 
canvas looking "sleepy," an effect Constable had a great horror of. 

This process was instinctively adopted by many of the best water 
colour painters, particularly b}' David Cox. No doubt the method 
came from the working of the material when making quick sketches 
from nature. In laying on rapid washes of water colour for sk}', 
foreground, foliage, and distance, numerous spaces of the white 
ground are left. These spaces, many of which are hardl}^ visible, 
give an extreme sparkle and brilliancy. The}' represent the glitter 
of reflected light from the sky across foliage and foreground. When 
the sketch was finished these lights were modified up to a certain 
point, but Constable was very guarded as to how far this was done. 
If carried too far the drawing became lifeless. By forgetting this 
fact the inferior artist, in trying to get finish, lost the greater qualities 
of spontaneity and truth of effect. 

It was not onl}' in the obvious that Constable excelled. He was 
a great and noble colourist. He was subtle in the arrangement of 
his composition, and, though painting much deep shade, tenacious of 
his effects of lights. Most important of all, he never failed to 
reproduce those exquisite flickering lights caused by the day sky 
which fall upon all objects in the open air. 

John Constable has been often and truly called the Father of 
Modern Impressionism. His first desire was to reproduce God's 
light in his work, and to give a true and full impression of nature 
both in colour and chiaroscuro. The success with which he attained 
these objects ampl}- justifies the claim he has to the distinction. 
His art, as a consequence, has had the widest and most lasting 
influence both at home and abroad. In mentioning his name in 
this connection 1 do not forget that all great landscape painters have 
been, by the very nature of their subject, impressionists. Turner 
was especially an impressionist, but, although Turner is accepted 
as the greatest master of landscape painting, and his work has not 
been without very great influence. Constable's robust and massive 
manner has affected the modern schools more universally. 



CONST. \RI.K 

In a letter already (|uoted Constable summed up the (jualities 
at whieh he chiefly aimed in his pictures — "light, dews, bree/es, 
bloom, and freshness; not one of whieh has yet been perfected on 
the canvas of any painter in the weirld." In anotliei- letter he refers 
to his desire to see the sun shine, the fields bloom, the trees 
blossom, and to hear the foliage rustle. In a letter written to 
Archdeacon Fisher he remarks: "'Oh deai-, oh dear, 1 shall never 
let my longing eyes see that famous countiy (Ital}').' These are the 
words ot olil Richardson, and like him I am doomed never to see 
the living scenes that inspired the landseaj)c of Wilson and (Haude. 
No. but I was born to paint a happiei- hind, my own dear old 
England; and when I cease to love her, may 1, as Wordsworth says, 

' Never more hear 
Her green leaves rustle, nor her torrents roar!'" 

He never ceased to love his homeland. And his intense affection 
and sympath}' for the English country side enabled him to paint it 
in a glorious ecstasy, the results of which are not likely to be ever 
surpassed. 





A MILL NEAR BRKJIITON 



FROM THE OIL SKETCH IN 
SOUTH KENSINGTON MUSEUM 




A SLUICE ON THE STOUR 



FROM THE OIL SKETCH IN 
SOUTH KENSINGTON MUSEUM 




VIEW IN THE CLOSE, 
SALISBURY 



FROM THE OIL SKETCH IN 
SOUTH KENSINGTON MUSEUM 




A RUSTIC BUILDING 



FROM THE OIL SKETCH IN 
SOUTH KENSINGTON MUSEUM 




LANDSCAPE WITH WATER 



FROM THE OIL SKETCH IN 
SOUTH KENSINGTON MUSEUM 




A VALLEY SCENE WITH TREES 



FROM THE OIL SKETCH IN 
SOUTH KENSINGTON MUSEUM 




WILLY LOTT'S HOUSE, NEAR 
FLATFORD MILL 



FROM THE OIL SKETCH IN 
SOUTH KENSINGTON MUSEUM 




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RUINS OF COWDRAV 



FROM THE WATER-COLOUR SKETCH 
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