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John Constable (British, 1776-1837)


Also known as:  John Constable, R. A.

Birth Place: East Bergholt (Suffolk, England, United Kingdom)

Born in 1776, John Constable is credited as one of the first English painters to master the en plein air technique of landscape rendering. Raised by a wealthy corn merchant, Constable was expected to succeed his father in the family business and was never encouraged to explore painting or drawing as anything but a pastime. Even so, Constable found inspiration in the Suffolk countryside where he grew up and would escape his familial pressures by losing himself in the surrounding areas with nothing but a sketchbook in hand.

At the turn of the century, Constable finally received his father’s blessing to pursue art as a profession and enrolled at the Royal Academy, where he was exposed to paintings by Thomas Gainsborough, Claude Lorrain and Peter Paul Rubens, among others. He showed great promise in his first years and some of his works were even exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1803. Nevertheless, personal insecurities seemed to blind the young artist from his true potential, and he never received the full recognition that he sought from the Academy.

He met the love of his life, Maria Bicknell, when he was thirty-three, and the two had seven children together. The couple was married for nearly twenty years before Mary passed away from pulmonary tuberculosis—a loss that weighed heavily on the artist until his own death nine years later. Following her death, his deep despondence manifested itself in his body of works, which were often executed with slashing brushstrokes and more subdued color palettes. And yet, despite his own cynicism, self-doubt and loss in confidence, many critics consider his works produced during this period of mourning to be among his greatest.

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