Van Gogh •
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John Constable was the son of a miller in Suffolk, England. Though Sir George Beaumont introduced him to the work
of Claude Lorrain, Constable painted sketched by himself until he
was twenty-four, when he entered the Royal Academy School in London. Constable believed that landscape painting must
strive to include "a pure apprehension of natural effect" and he painted typical scenes from the southern English
countryside. He worked with watercolors and directly from the motif while outdoors, then enlarged his sketches in oil
once indoors. These landscapes differ from those of his predecessors because of Constable's primary concern with light,
air, and sky rather than with exact landscape details. He considered the sky "the key-note ... and chief organ of sentiment,"
and delighted in registering its changes and in using it as a foil for the more stable land. As a result, he developed a broad,
free technique that gives his work a particularly romantic softness.
Although he was the first to treat landscapes with spontaneity and emotion, his first exhibition in 1802 passed almost
unnoticed since the demand in England was for portraits. In fact, for years, Constable painted portraits, for which he
cared little, in order to earn his meager living, while he continued to paint the landscapes in which his real interest
lay. When he was forty-eight, he sent several landscapes to the Paris Salon. The French were highly impressed and awarded
him the Gold Medal (1824) for "The Hay Wain". Even so, it was only five years later that Constable was elected, with full
membership, to the Royal Academy. Nevertheless, Constable considered this honor as having come too late, and he lived out
his last years lonely and embittered. Complete recognition of his talents and his technique of using broken touches of color
to convey movement and light did not come until after his death.