John Constable

English (1776 - 1837)
John Constable The Vale of Dedham 1828


Born 1776
Died 1837
Nationality English
Birth place East Bergholt
Death place Hampstead

Constable introduced a new and refreshing naturalism into British nineteenth-century landscape painting. He concentrated on depicting the Suffolk countryside around his birthplace, although also painted in Salisbury and Hampstead. Constable never travelled abroad. His compositions and interest in light effects were influenced by Claude Lorrain's classical landscapes, but he rejected the mellow tones and smooth finish of 'old masters', favouring broken, richly textures brushwork. Constable observed nature intently, studying its ever-changing appearances through pencil drawings and vigorous oil sketches. He eventually received official recognition as a full member of the Royal Academy in 1829.

Glossary terms

  • A French expression meaning ‘in the open air’. It refers to the practice of painting a complete picture outside as apposed to a creating a preparatory sketch or study. The technique was developed during the mid 1800’s by Constable in Britain, in France by the Barbizon School painters such as Courbet and Corot and later by the Impressionist painters including Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Artists using the technique sought to capture the essence of natural light. In the second half of the nineteenth century the technique spread throughout much of Europe and into America.

  • Art based on the observation of objects rather than on theoretical or stylistic concerns.

  • A movement in art, literature and music in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that rejected neoclassical restraint in favour of emotion and individual expression.