James Hamilton (Weidenfeld £ 25, 496pp)
Isn’t this beautiful? John Constable told his fellow coach traveler in 1832 when they crossed the river valley in Dedham, Essex.
“Yes, sir,” said a fellow traveler. “This is a constable country.”
“I’m John Constable,” he replied.
It was a satisfying moment. The widow and seven-year-old father, the 56-year-old Constable, has finally become “the legend of his own landscape,” as James Hamilton puts it in this fun, vibrant, heartwarming biography. But he couldn’t get the late flowering success because his wife Maria wasn’t near him. She died of tuberculosis at the age of 41, 11 months after giving birth to her seventh child.
If you like Constable paintings like me, reading this book is a pain. How did the royal scholars recognize his genius and take years to vote for him as an associate? “It’s very green,” said one scholar with contempt for one of his landscapes.
Masterpiece: John Constable’s Stratford Mill, painted in 1820. Constable’s unique gift was to explore the depth and variety of greenery influenced by the clouds of the English landscape in a way that no one has yet.
Well, yes, that’s the English landscape. Constable’s unique gift was to explore the depth and variety of cloud-influenced greens in a way that no one has yet. It was a bit like Emperor Joseph II telling Mozart that his music had “too many notes.” Blindness and deafness for innovative brilliance.
William Turner was elected RA at the age of 24, but had to be a police officer until the age of 43 to get enough votes. During all those years, he struggled to survive and was forced to take on portraiture missions to feed his family and pay rent.
One of the most troublesome Major Generals of the Navy changed his uniform from red to blue because he was promoted, changed into his house and repainted his uniform. And a nice sunny and windy day! “I have a great grudge against the clear sky,” Constable wrote to Maria, and I sincerely hope this will be the last portrait from my pencil.
Perhaps, however, the delay in recognition gave momentum to Constable’s brave experimentation and helped him forge his masterpiece.
As Hamilton says, the outdoor world is his “laboratory”, experimenting with chemistry in the context of Humphry Davy a few miles away, experimenting with Faraday with electromagnetic rotation, and Constable in all weather in Hampstead Heath. Out, the truth about the cloud with “energy born from the fusion of despair and glorious independence, as it was clear that no one was interested.”
The sneaky British art-collecting aristocrats who should have bought his work described it as “the art of those who worked for their lives.” The policeman certainly came from the family of the owner of the watermill — therefore his deep knowledge and accuracy in portraying the work of the watermill, barge, and cart.
The first battle in his life was to be allowed to be an artist rather than a family miller, as his father wanted.
His family comes across a warm and crouching Jane Austen-type crowd. Constable’s fretting mother, Anne, is desperate to help her son step into high society. Marriage with Constable was, in his view, even worse than “trade” -he was a poor artist-beyond the pale! He hid Maria on the other side of England, decided to separate her lovers, and moved her like her hostage.
John Constable, a 56-year-old widow and 7-year-old father, has finally become “the legend of his own landscape,” as James Hamilton wrote in this fun, vibrant and heartwarming biography. .. But he couldn’t get the late flowering success because his wife Maria wasn’t near him. She died of tuberculosis at the age of 41, 11 months after giving birth to her seventh child.
But whether in love or art, Constable will not answer “no”. He continued to write hundreds of letters to her until he and Maria finally got married. Maria is perfect, she is “really empathetic,” and “is determined to work on her understanding and acceptance that painting is his” mistress. “
You should still be embarrassed that the French were the first to appreciate his splendor. Théodore Géricault came to England and saw his work, “it was pretty stunning.” The Hay Wain and View on the Stool were purchased and triumphantly exhibited at the Louvre. Did Constable go to France to absorb the praise? No. I hope I won’t go to Paris as long as I’m alive. I will never abandon my old England, my place of happiness. “
He was a good old soul. As one friend explained him, “sloppy”, “because he constantly lived in damp, wet, dripping trees in the wilderness, during storms, rain, wind,” he said with affection. It can be both angry.
“Distressed, delusional (sometimes), unfriendly, counter-reformation Tories, chippy, sensitive, hypochondriasis, sarcastic, gossip, whimsical, money-tight, prejudice and rudeness about other artists” , Is just a part of Hamilton’s adjectives.
He was never an alcoholic, but he enjoyed his wine. His devoted but fairly thoughtful daughter Isabel later read his letter and raged up references to his drinking.
He worshiped his wife, but can be quite selfish. He packed her into Brighton with her children during her summer. He tackled her stunning isolation in London and complained to her that she felt sick when she was a truly disappointing tuberculosis.
And yes, he could be eloquently rude about other artists. He couldn’t stand the epidemic of mythical painting — people “prefer the hairy back of the satyr over the moral sense of the landscape.” He ridiculed Turner’s painting “Stagnant Sulfur.”
Did he and Turner really swear their enemies, as posterity portrayed them? In 1831 there was a famous quarrel at the Royal Academy, recorded by young painter David Roberts.
He wrote that the policeman moved one of Turner’s paintings and placed his painting in its place. “Turner opened him like a ferret. It was clear that Turner hated him.”
Hamilton reassesses this: it was a “partisan attack” on a police officer by a young Roberts who had an ax with an ax. In Hamilton’s view, Turner and Constable were friendly rivals, respecting each other and eating each other. The conflict was “an isolated event and was reported mischievously.”
How did he manage after Maria died? His brothers rushed to the rescue, took their children to Suffolk, and had a long and happy summer. And a great German tutor arrived at just the right time. One Charles Bonner has become a police officer’s assistant.
The policeman had a gift of friendship. His best friend in the world that encouraged him and survived the dark times was Archdeacon John Fisher, the nephew of Bishop of Salisbury, who lived near the Cathedral of Salisbury.
But because of that friendship, there is no masterpiece of Salisbury Cathedral. Before he got married, his friends spent time bathing, reading, painting, and “confusing one or two passages of Horace.”
Reading this book is to take you to the best and worst of the early 1800s: all its glorious civilizations, the charm and beauty of his immortal “Constable Country”, the wild ruggedness of Hampstead Heath, Rose-colored gag-children on the cheeks; but in addition to that, snooping from high school to low school, and the constant fear of premature death.
The policeman himself died of a heart attack at night and went to bed at the age of 60 after a brief supper of bread, cheese and water followed by a bottle of plums.