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September 11, 2006 | by  | in Visual Arts | [ssba]

The Haywain – John Constable 1821

I figured that since the big Constable exhibition is on at Te Papa at the moment (and is worth checking out I might add), it would be apt to have a look at why Constable is considered to be such a big wig in the landscape painting world.

Landscape painting has had its ups and downs in popularity. By traditional standards it wasn’t really thought of as a worthy genre. Classical nudes, historical scenes, and portraiture was more where it was at. In the eighteenth century however, landscape painting became an accepted genre in its own right, and John Constable was one of the main proponents of this style of painting in England.

The Haywain is a very large painting and is a good example of Constable’s interest in the English countryside; the shadows and shapes of the land. This painting is almost soporific to look at. Slowly, slowly goes the river, trickling away into the distance.

Steadfast stand the trees. The clouds roll by in the blue sky etc. As the current exhibition at Te Papa shows, Constable was particularly interested in the weather; the changes in the sky and clouds and what effect these have on a landscape. The most interesting part of the show is studies of atmospheric conditions, the results of which can be seen in this work. Constable was a master of the nuances of light, rain and shadows.


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