The genius of John Constable

‘Take away this nasty green thing,’ a leading critic of the day implored in front of one of John Constable’s landscapes hanging in the Royal Academy of Arts.  That Constable’s landscapes were progressive is a given now, but in the early 19th century, establishment painting was reserved for portraits of the grating ‘good’, property,  and military scenario. It was radical to paint nature.  The Late Constable exhibition at the Royal Academy is a thrilling tour de force of painting.   I present here an 8 x 5 inch fragment of the famous ‘Leaping Horse’ of 1825. The entire painting is 74 x 56 inches, but to draw the gaze into any part of it is richly satisfying. Look at the dragging textured paint, the stippled trees, mottled sky,  the posture of the figures (negligible in the whole painting) and that dot of red.  Constable used red – a complimentary of green – in many of his paintings; just a dot, or splodge.  His landscapes contain paint as portal, but when you enter, are no longer contained.  You’re there, not back in the 19th century, but now, in the water, air and greenery of nature.  Not even the Black Friday scrums in Oxford Street could undo Constable’s good work.
Jan Woolf 
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One Response to The genius of John Constable

    1. An interesting fragment of his work and observation about the use of red in Constable paintings which is typical for him, and his abstract way of working, progressive in context of his time. I have passed your comments on to my life drawing class and Estelle Lovatt who offers a Constable walks and talk in Hampstead.

      Comment by Margot Schiemann on 27 November, 2021 at 1:48 pm

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