John Constable

John Constable was one of the leading British artists in landscape painting in the 18th century whose innovative paintings paved the way for the Impressionist movement. He was born in East Bergholt, Surrey on June 11, 1776, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. His father was a wealthy corn merchant who encouraged his son to follow in his business but Constable persisted in his dream of becoming an artist with his love for painting and nature. Though he had no formal education, he became greatly influenced by Claude Lorrain (1600-1682), John Thomas Smith (1766-1833) and Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), to name a few. His love for nature began as a boy, shaping his art work toward creating landscapes of nature as he saw it, showing the beauty and power of flora and fauna. He painted from nature, rather than creating his own composition, showing the world his favorite hometown of Surrey. This way of depicting nature was against the norms of modern day landscape artists who typically used landscape art for mythical and historical scenes. He is considered a landscape revolutionary as he introduced a broad and naturalistic brushstroke and the Impasto technique as well which was further developed by the Impressionists. He was also credited with layering colors to give the rivers and objects more movement, a style which was new to the art scene.

Constable’s innovative style, however, was attacked by his contemporaries as unskilled and remained largely unfavored in England. He entered his first exhibition in 1806 but did not sell his first painting until almost ten years later. He married Maria Bichell in 1816 and proceeded to produce seven children with her. That year, he sold his first painting, The Hay Wain, which was exhibited in Paris. He began gaining popularity in France and was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1821, though remained largely unknown until after his death on March 31, 1837. Despite his being out of favor during his life, he became one of the most innovative British artists who helped advance the art world towards greater levels without ever traveling outside of his hometown of Surrey.