John Constable ( 1776 – 1837): Salisbury Cathedral from the

John Constable ( 1776 – 1837): Salisbury Cathedral from the

3/6/2021, 11:20:10 AM
John Constable ( 1776 – 1837): Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows (detail), 1831, Oil paint on canvas, 153.7 x 192 cm, Tate, London Our new artist, John Constable was an English Romantic painter, known principally for his landscape paintings of Dedham Vale, the area surrounding his home—now known as "Constable Country"—which he invested with an intensity of affection. "I should paint my own places best", he wrote in a letter in 1821, "painting is but another word for feeling". Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, which Constable began painting in 1830, shows the cathedral from the south-west, looking across the River Nadder from a point near a footbridge known as the Long Bridge. A team of three horses pulls a cart across the river from the left; cattle graze in the meadows in the right distance; and the centre foreground is occupied by a black and white sheepdog whose intent gaze is turned inwards towards the cathedral as if to direct the viewer towards the building or the storm that sweeps over it. The spire pierces a sky full of billowing clouds; a dark rain cloud hangs directly above and a streak of lightning flashes over the roof; but a magnificent rainbow arches over all, promising that the storm will pass. While the tall trees in the middle distance on the left are shaken by a squally breeze, the river’s surface is already glassy and smooth, reflecting the varied sky. Fresh raindrops glint and sparkle on the brambles in the foreground. Throughout much of the canvas, the paint is handled with a febrile, sometimes even frenzied excitement, especially in the foreground undergrowth, the trembling trees and the Gothic architecture of the cathedral. Laid on with brush and palette knife, the paint ranges from thick and three-dimensional in the brambles, to thin and almost translucent in the rainbow. The picture was exhibited by Constable at the Royal Academy in 1831 but never found a buyer. The painting remained in the artist’s studio – where he continued to retouch it – until his death in 1837. (tate.org)

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