John Constable [1776 – 1837]

Self Portrait
English landscape painter

John Constable

was born,
June 11, 1776,
in East Bergholt, a village on the River Stour in Suffolk.

A painter known principally for his landscape paintings of the Suffolk countryside, the area surrounding his home – now known as “Constable Country” – which he invested with an intensity of affection. As he said: “I should paint my own places best, painting is but another word for feeling”.
Although his paintings are now among the most popular and valuable in British art, he was never financially successful. He became a member of the establishment after he was elected to the Royal Academy at the age of 52. His work was embraced in France, where he sold more than in his native England and inspired the Barbizon school. Constable was influenced by Dutch artists such as Jacob van Ruisdael. The works of Peter Paul Rubens and Claude also proved to be useful colouristic and compositional models. However, the realism and vitality of Constable’s work make it highly original.
(From Wikipedia)
On a personal note, this is a painter I hadn’t really ‘looked’ at his work in depth as it didn’t appeal to me as much as other painters. I see now I was wrong and am happy that even now I appreciate his art more.

So here’s a glimpse of his work & words
Old Sarum

“You know I have always succeeded best with my native scenes. They have always charmed me, and I hope they always will.”

Willy Lot’s House

“I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may – light, shade, and perspective will always make it beautiful.”

The Opening of Waterloo Bridge seen from Whitehall Stairs

“Still I should paint my own places best; painting is with me but another word for feeling, and I associate “my careless boyhood” with all that lies on the banks of the Stour; those scenes made me a painter, and I am grateful; that is, I had often thought of pictures of them before ever I touched a pencil, and your picture [‘The White Horse’] is one of the strongest instance I can recollect of it.”

Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows

“Light – dews – breezes – bloom – and freshness; not one of which… has yet been perfected on the canvas of any painter in the world.”

Study of the Trunk of an Elm Tree

“Verse is a mechanism by which we can create interpretative illusions suggesting profoundities of response and understanding which far exceed the engagement or research of the writer.”

Cloud Study: Horizon of Trees; (c) Royal Academy of Arts / Photographer credit: John Hammond /

“When we speak of the perfection of art, we must recollect what the materials are with which a painter contends with nature. For the light of the sun he has but patent yellow and white lead – for the darkest shade, umber or soot.”

A Coast Scene; Seascape Study: Brighton Beach looking west (c) Royal Academy of Arts / Photographer credit: John Hammond /

“I am anxious that the world should be inclined to look to painters for information about painting.”

Landscape with a Double Rainbow
Landscape with a Double Rainbow, has been related to lines from Wordsworth’s poem ‘My Heart Leaps Up’, also known as ‘The Rainbow’

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began
So is it now I am a man
So be it when I shall grow old…
The Child is father of the Man.

William Wordsworth

A Boat at the Sluice (sketch)

“I don’t mind parting with the corn, but not with the field in which it was raised.”

The Close, Salisbury

“I know very well what I am about and that my skies have not been neglected, though they often failed in execution – and often no doubt from over anxiety about them…”

Weymouth Bay, with Jordan Hill

“The sound of water escaping from mill-dams, etc., willows, old rotten planks, slimy posts, and brickwork.those scenes made me a painter and I am grateful.”

Flatford Mill from a Lock on the Stour

“Connoisseurs think the art is already done.”

Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Grounds

“Painting is a science, and should be pursued as an inquiry into the laws of nature. Why, then, may not landscape painting be considered as a branch of natural philosophy, of which pictures are but the experiments?”

The Lock

“The world is wide; no two days are alike, nor even two hours; neither were there ever two leaves of a tree alike since the creation of the world; and the genuine productions of art, like those of nature, are all distinct from one another.”

View on the Stour near Dedham

“There has never been a boy painter, nor can there be. The art requires a long apprenticeship, being mechanical, as well as intellectual.”

The White Horse

“When I sit down to make a sketch from nature, the first thing I try to do is to forget that I have ever seen a picture.”


“A sketch will not serve more than one state of mind & will not serve to drink at again & again — in a sketch there is nothing but the one state of mind — that which you were in at the time.”

The Cornfield

“It is the soul that sees; the outward eyes Present the object, but the Mind descries. We see nothing till we truly understand it.”

The Quarters behind Alresford Hall

“I have likewise made many ‘skies’ and effects – for I wish it could be said of me as Fuselli says of Rembrandt, ‘he followed nature in her calmest abodes and could pluck a flower on every hedge – yet he was born to cast a steadfast eye on the bolder phenomena of nature’… We have had noble clouds & effects of light & dark & color.”

Cloud Study, Hampstead, Tree at Right

“No man who can do any one thing well will be able to any different thing equally well.”

Maria Bicknell [Constable’s wife]

“My art flatters nobody by imitation, it courts nobody by smoothness, nobody by petitelieness without either fal-de-lal or fiddle-de-dee; how then can I hope to be popular?”

Wivenhoe Park, Essex

“The first impression and a natural one is, that the fine arts have risen or declined in proportion as patronage has been given to them or withdrawn, but it will be found that there has often been more money lavished on them in their worst periods than in their best, and that the highest honours have frequently been bestowed on artists whose names are scarcely now known.”

Deadham Vale

“Speaking to a lawyer about pictures is something like talking to a butcher about humanity.”

Seascape Study with Rain Cloud

…and how else would I close this presentation of his work, but with a sketch of a pup! 😉
Study of a sleeping spaniel

The music I’ve chosen is from a composer who shares the same birthday with Constable and for whom Oannes has prepared a brilliant podcast today Check it here: RICHARD STRAUSS B-DAY

Richard Strauss [1864 – 1949]

Burleske in D minor

conductor: Claudio Abbado • Piano: Martha Argerich • Berliner Philharmoniker

For more information on Constable:


Be Safe 🏡

41 replies »

  1. Both Constable’s self-portrait and his quotes immediately bring to mind the British Romantic poets. I wonder if he knew them. Of the paintings you’ve posted, the one I find most striking is “Stonehenge.” It has such a different look and feel than another other images I’ve seen of that spot.

  2. Good to look again at this masterly painter – his work so familiar and so bastardized with mass produced prints and chocolate box lids! Look at the man at the lock – he really is opening the sluice! I’m struck by the contrast of his styles too – Salisbury cathedral and Arlesford hall so delicately composed – but he does trees to stately perfection and clouds to full drama.

    • Oh, you’re so right! Part of my late appreciation of his work were things like chocolate box lids etc When I saw his Seascape Study with Rain Cloud I was amazed! Full drama indeed!

  3. When I lost something incredibly dear to me The Cornfield helped me immeasurably. A simple painting but it transported me into another world, one I needed at the time. Such a nice era… I mean, to ‘visit.’ Not sure actually living then would have been so great! 😊

      • It’s a long story… a small print of that was the only thing I left on the wall of our old, ancestral cottage as I stayed there for the very last time. I didn’t want to leave the venerable old building absolutely bare.
        Later, I regretted leaving it there. But I looked up the painting on the internet and then visited my gf (at the time) who lived in a rural area. I rode her bike through the countyside and the painting literally came to life.
        That ‘new’ natural scene took the place of the one I had left behind, one deeply meaningful to me.
        Now I’m stuck at home and don’t plan to go to any countryside soon! 🙂

  4. Hi Marina,

    His paintings are dramatic and gorgeous! Thank you for the introduction, and the music is mesmerizing! I love the dog at the end, too. 🙂 Happy weekend, my friend. xo

    • They are aren’t they?!
      Thank you, Lauren! xo
      Yes… I do have a thing for dogs – love it too! 😉 !!!!
      Hope you had a beautiful weekend and an even more beautiful week ahead!

      • I always wanted many acres of land so that I could take in as many dogs 🐕 as I wanted to adopt. Give them a good, loving home with lots of their furry friends. Well, that hasn’t happened yet, but we had Lucky Girl who knew she was loved, and now Copper who knows he’s king of the house. King Copper! Can’t live without a dog 🐶 and I know you’re the same. The weekend was great and now it’s Monday! Ahhh! Wishing you a wonderful week too, my friend. 💗💗💗

  5. Rustic, pastoral yet beyond.
    “patent yellow” (would that be egg yolk?) “and white lead – for the darkest shade, umber or soot.”
    Imagine painting with such things.
    I just go to the art store.
    Fabulous post, Marina!
    The dog is awesome.
    Hera xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxooxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo
    Now, off to Oannes!

    • Well… I had to add the pup…. so unexpected of me huh?! 😉
      Exactly “yet beyond” this is why I regret not appreciating his art as much when I was younger!
      Mouah… big kiss and huge hug!

  6. I’ve always loved his works. So much preview to abstraction in his portrayal of nature. Like the white lace of the portrait. Such lovely brush work.
    Nice quotes as companions to the paintings
    Enjoyed this post.

  7. Such different times, and a different way of seeing. It’s refreshing to scroll through the images – thank you! (Not that I’m in any way against a modern “lens” but it’s good to get inside a different way of being now and then).

    • It is, isn’t it. It’s hard imagining the quieter and much much slower way of living back then (more human imho too). Thank you for taking this journey with me! 🙂

      • More human, yes, but here we are, with our digital tools, making the best of them. (I have often thought about the slower pace when looking carefully at drawings or paintings from centuries past, and it’s really hard to imagine, just as you said).

Happy to hear your thoughts

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