JOHN CONSTABLE R.A.
Charles Golding Constable
Mr Bashall of Preston
Percy Moore Turner
Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill
Sir Edward Hulton
Private Collection, UK
Wildenstein, A Centenary Memorial Exhibition of John Constable, 1937
Gainsborough’s House, Masters of the golden Age: Gainsborough, Constable, Turner and Lawrence, 2019
Wildenstein, Catalogue of a Centenary Memorial Exhibition of John Constable, 1937, no.62
Graham Reynolds, The Later Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, 1984, no. 22.46
This freely executed upright oil-painting, very possibly painted en plein air, was made on Hampstead Heath at some point during the summers and autumns of 1820-23. This intense time of study was to prove fundamental to the development of his large-scale landscape paintingsand is now viewed as the period that defined his artistic maturity.
Constable first rented a house in Hampstead in the late summer of 1819. Over the next few years this expansive open terrain would prove crucial both to the improvement of his wife's health and to the advancement of his art. Hampstead had attracted painters from as early as the beginning of the 18th century, when Willem van de Velde the younger is known to have made sky studies on the Heath.
From his lodgings at 2, Lower Terrace, which allowed him easy access to the western end of the Heath, Constable set about recording the landscape. In this painting, quick, liquid brushstrokes deftly convey cirrocumulus clouds on the left and centre of the sky and cirrus uncinus clouds on the right. Constable uses magenta, white, yellow and dove-grey for the clouds and a bright cool blue for the sky, this is rendered in short, soft marks with a drier brush. The hillocks and woods divide the work into separate areas of sky and land. The way Constable applies paint is often unexpected; it may be piled up or scraped down, aggressively jabbed or tightly and precisely touched, spread with a knife, scratched with the end of a brush, splattered and smeared. Constable also added small smatterings of white paint to the surfaces of his paintings to suggest the flickering light across the landscape and its reflection and absorption off the vermillion and emerald coloured leaves.
The landscape is fully resolved: the warm red-brown ground, left underpainted in the lower left corner and in parts of the foreground, not only prefigures Impressionism by forty years but also reveals the influence of 17th century Dutch landscapes, such as those in the magnificent collection of Sir George Beaumont, 7th Baronet (1753-1827), which the artist had had occasion to study as a young man. The energy of the richly-textured brushwork conveys the speed of the artist's hand, as Constable hastens to record this fleeting moment, and reveals an artist wholly confident in his mastery of light and technique.