John Constable's The Lock has become one of the most expensive British paintings ever sold, fetching £22.4m at auction at Christie's in London. The full price of £22,441,250 for the 1824 masterpiece depicting Suffolk rural life places it joint fourth on the list of most-expensive Old Masters.
At first, Constable's creative brush strokes and use of colour were unpopular with English art critics. They commented that his paintings were unfinished. His lack of income made the family of his wife Maria disapprove of him. [...] Maria died from tuberculosis in 1828. Constable was devastated. He wore black for the rest of his life, and his work took on a darker tone, as seen in paintings like Chain Pier, Brighton.
Constable simulated the shimmer of light on surfaces by tiny dabs of color stippled with white. (Many found these white highlights incomprehensible, calling them "Constable's snow.") He put tiny red dots on leaves to energize the green, hoping the vibrations between complementary hues would convey an impression of movement like the flux of nature.
Constable's six-foot 'Stour River scenes' are his most well-known [...] The artist's most famous works are all based on the Suffolk countryside with which he was so enamored. His techniques and methods of capturing natural light and movement were innovative and still inspire artists to this day.
Constable has often been defined as the great ‘naturalist’ and deliberately presented himself thus in his correspondence, although his stylistic variety indicates an instability in his perception of what constituted ‘nature’. He has also been characterized as having painted only the places he knew intimately, which other artists tended to pass by.
This emotional approach contrasts with the more objective study of weather by nineteenth-century artists such as John Constable. The artist Henry Fuseli's joke that he needed his umbrella and greatcoat to visit his friend Constable shows the early association between Constable and the unpredictability of British weather. Early topographical artists had drawn skies much as they did architecture - simple forms outlined and tinted. As can be seen in Constable's 'Salisbury Cathedral', Constable could envelop something as solid as a church spire in atmosphere.
Constable […] had grown up observing skies; as a miller's sone, the importance of weather can hardly have escaped him. He believed that an arrest could not neglect a sky or treat it as subordinate in a painting since "the sky is the 'source of light' in nature - and governs everything," he claimed. He even wondered why a landscape painter "should not… be considered rather as a student in any branch of Natural Philosophy" and dedicated himself to studying natural phenomena, especially skies.
Constable was born in East Bergholt, Suffolk. He was largely self-taught, and developed slowly. In 1799 he was a probationer, and in 1800 a student at the Royal Academy schools. He exhibited from 1802 at the Royal Academy in London, and later at the Paris Salon. He influenced the Barbizon School and the French Romantic movement.
Constable was one of the most original artistic forces to emerge in the early nineteenth century. Like that of his near contemporary Turner, the impact of his work would continue to reverberate in Britain, and internationally, long after his death. The artist's success in France has been seen by many art historians as having significantly influenced the course of the history of art, as his intense observation of nature inspired French artists in a movement of landscape painting that would find its fullest expression half a century later in the work of the Impressionists.
John Constable (1776-1837) was the father of modern landscape painting. Constable was an innovator who revamped the academic styles by choosing to work directly from nature and developing a direct painting technique.