'John Constable: Off Sketches from the Victoria & Albert Museum'.

Author:Peeters, Nic

'John Constable: Off Sketches from the Victoria & Albert Museum'

Museum of Fine Arts (MSKG), Ghent, 17 Sept 2011-29 Jan 2012 Also at Kumu Art Museum, Tallinn, 23 Sept 2010-23 Jan 2011; Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, 12 March-3 July 2011; Museum of Fine Arts, Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey, 17 Match-10 June 2012; Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, 23 June-30 September 2012

Mark Evans, ed, with Nicola Costaras and Clare Richardson

John Constable: Olieverfschetsen uit het Victoria and Albert Museum

Londen, Brussels, Mercatorfonds, 2012 Ghent catalogue (Dutch only)

As its title indicates, this exhibition did not focus on the ell-known finished paintings by John Constable (1776-1837) but allowed visitors to acquaint themselves with his preparatory work for such iconic pictums as The Hay Wain (1821), View on the Stour near Dedham (1822) and The Leaping Horse (1825). It included drawings in pencil, ink and watercolour, but the emphasis was firmly on the oil sketches. All of them were the result of Constable going directly to nature and studying it almost scientifically. He made keenly observed studies of elements of the landscape which he recorded under changing light and atmospheric conditions at a time when the practice of painting off sketches in the open air was still quite unusual. Constable's pioneering observations in oils make him a key figure in the history of landscape painting, a precursor of later generations, particularly on the Continent. The Romantic artist Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) regarded him as the father of modern French landscape painting. To landscape painters such as Gustave Courbet (1819-77), Theodore Rousseau (1812-67), Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875), Jean-Francois Millet (1814-75), Charles-Francois Daubigny (1817-78), Cesar De Cock (1823-1904) and most French Impressionists, capturing an atmosphere in nature directly 'en plein air' with oils became the obvious thing to do. The Ghent leg of this travelling exhibition included a room of paintings by Courbet, Rousseau, Corot and De Cock from its own collection that clearly indicate Constable's influence. Sadly, none of these Continental works is included in the show's catalogue.

There is no denying that Constable's oil sketches leave a lasting impression on the beholder. Personally, I see this ms a consequence of their uncompromising, almost photographic framing and viewpoints as well as their bold, vigorous brushstrokes. With broken brushwork...

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