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The Painter that Revolutionized Landscape Painting: John Constable

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John Constable (1776 – 1837) was an English Romantic painter known mainly for his landscapes and his revolutionary way of painting landscapes. Most of his landscapes depict different scenes of Dedham Vale. He created so many landscape paintings of this area that the Dedham Vale area is known as “Constable Country.”

With his fresh, new idea that landscapes should not be idealized scenes but as near to the actual scene as possible, he revolutionized landscape painting of the 19th century.

In this article, we’ll briefly look at the background of the painter John Constable, discuss some aspects of his revolutionized landscape style, and look at two of the most famous John Constable paintings.

Learn about John Constable’s Life

John Constable was born in Suffolk. Constable’s father was a wealthy corn merchant who wanted John to succeed him in the business. After leaving school, Constable worked for a while in the corn business. However, his younger brother eventually took over the business.

As a young man, Constable undertook sketching trips on boats and ships on the nearby rivers and studied the surrounding countryside – the area which later became the subject of a large proportion of his art. In 1799, Constable artist convinced his father to let him start an art career. He entered the Royal Academy School, attended life classes, and studied and copied old masters.

In 1803, some of his paintings were exhibited at the Royal Academy. In 1819 the first critical John Constable painting, “The White Horse,” was sold. Because of the excellent reception of “The White Horse,” Constable became an associate of the Royal Academy.

During this time, he painted more large landscapes that were later called the “Six-footers” because of their monumental scale. Today, they are considered the most forceful landscapes created in the 1800s in Europe. Moreover, in 1831 he was appointed Visitor at the Royal Academy, where he was popular with the students. His public lectures on the history of landscape painting were well-attended.

The Painter John Constable’s basic Ideas regarding Landscapes

The British painter John Constable revolutionized landscape painting in the 19th century. His paintings also had a far-reaching effect on European art, particularly France.

The norm of the period was highly idealized landscapes. Constable moved away from this idealistic style and favored more realistic depictions of the natural world. According to him, a landscape artist must only create after close observation of the subject. Furthermore, the landscape artist must only transfer what he has seen truthfully to a canvas.

John Constable is famous for his landscapes painted in and around the Stour Valley. In his landscape paintings, his subjects relate to the pleasant aspects of the countryside.

John Constable’s Experiments

As you discover more about painter John Constable, you realize that he experimented with a more complimentary style of representation in his many preparatory sketches. This freer style allows him to spontaneously capture the effects of fundamental change on the countryside, such as the light effects in the morning, noon, and late afternoon.

He transferred the effects of the experiments to his finished works. The sketches and drawings of Constable the artist were, however, considerably more impressionistic and less detailed than his final canvases.

how to draw hands easy tutorial for beginners and the final John Constable paintings convey his overall aim to depict the scenery as realistic as possible, regardless of medium and technique.

Constable Artist – Style Characteristics

John Constable created his unique manner of depicting scenes – he transferred what he saw as truthfully as possible to a canvas. For example, the changing patterns of clouds fascinated him, and he sought to transfer that and the light effects of the weather and different times of the day to his canvas.

He used large brushstrokes to create representations that depicted what he saw. He also abandoned the traditional invisible brushstrokes technique expected by the Academic art of the period. Instead, he applied paint in different ways, including a palette knife. The new technique gave his canvases a textured and imperfect finish. The imperfect finish enhanced the realism he wanted to convey.

John Constable also used color more widely than was the norm of the time. He reflected on the hues he found in nature.

John Constable Painting – “Dedham Vale” (1802)

Dedham Vale 1802 – John Constable

This was one of Constable’s first significant paintings. The tranquility of the image belies the broader political turmoil caused by the Napoleonic wars. In addition, the painting shows his commitment to close observation of nature. This is seen in the detailed trees and sky.

The viewer’s eye is taken across the painting from the foreground along the river to the tower of the Dedham church. This tower is small but forms a clear focal point for the painting. The trees on the sides form a frame for the central part of the image.

John Constable’s Painting – “The Hay Wain” (1821)

The Hay Wain – John Constable

“The Hay Wain” is painted in oil on canvas and depicts a rural scene on the River Stour. In the center of the painting, three horses are pulling a wood wain or large farm wagon across the river. Willy Lott’s Cottage is visible on the far left.

According to art lovers and critics, this landscape painting is the most famous Constable painting. Many regard the masterpiece as one of the most excellent and most popular English paintings of all time.

“The Hay Wain” is a magnificent example of Constable’s landscapes. In it, Constable captures the essence of productivity and hard work in 19th century England. It’s a large oil painting measuring about 6 x 73 inches. Constable also produced a full-scale oil sketch for the work, which was made before photography became mainstream


Constable was one of the pioneering artists of the Romantic movement to create landscape paintings that were not idealized and dramatic depictions of nature but rather a depiction of how the artist sees the scene. The way he treated light, applied paint and used bright, naturalistic colors were revolutionary developments in the art of landscape painting.

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