18. John Constable

East Bergholt 1776 – 1837 London

East Bergholt, 1808

Unlike his contemporary Turner, Constable was an enthusiastic painter of plein air oil sketches. He systematically painted out-of-doors throughout most of his career, capturing both panoramic landscape views and close-up details, such as his exceptional series of cloud studies (cat. 112 and 113). Despite achieving international success with the landscapes he exhibited at the 1824 Paris Salon, Constable never left his homeland and his paintings helped shape an enduring popular image of the English countryside. According to his biographer, Constable’s life work was “a history of his affections”1, and the artist himself wrote that painting “is but another word for feeling”2. Painted twenty years apart, both these landscapes (cat. 18 and 19) would have had personal resonance for the artist. This one, the earliest, painted in 1808, represents a view of his native East Bergholt, as seen from the back of his parental home. The study of Salisbury (cat. 19) was probably painted during the artist’s last visit to the city in 1829. It was taken from the grounds of the canonical house of Leadenhall, the home of Constable’s closest friend and frequent correspondent the Archdeacon John Fisher (1788–1832), a nephew of the Bishop of Salisbury.

1Charles Robert Leslie, Memoirs of the life of John Constable, R.A., composed chiefly of his letters, London, [1843] 1845, p. 316.

2R.B. Beckett, John Constable’s Correspondence. VI, The Fishers, Ipswich, 1968.