Constable exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia

Posted by jerry on May 6th, 2006 — Posted in Journal

This is a must-see exhibition of John Constable’s (1776-1837) work. The exhibition includes his Diploma piece for the Royal Academy depicting a boat passing a lock (painted in 1826, accepted by the Academy 1829). It depicts the Dedham Lock on the River Stour – there are many sketches on this theme included in the exhibition.

The painting “Vale of Dedham” (1827-8) was his last painting of the Stour Valley. Interestingly, the foreground has a poor woman and baby huddled next to a small cooking fire adjacent to a makeshift humpy. They are depicted as part of the landscape, rather than as focii, and are clearly on the margins of the society of the time – perhaps a displaced person from the industrial revolution, and clearly the woman is excluded from the town and its comforts.

This painting of Salisbury Cathedral (1823) shows the spire framed by trees. Churches in Constable’s landscapes are often depicted almost in isolation in otherwise undeveloped sites – as though depicting the enormous use of local resources by the church – leaving no room for the people.
Salisbury Cathedral - Constable

Constable’s cloud scenes – experimental sketches – are almost impressionist in their treatment of the light. Constable concentrated on unique atmospheric effects, which he recorded in sketches. On them he noted the date, time, direction of light, wind, temparature and humidity – they form an excellent historical record of the atmospheric conditions prevailing in England at the time.

Throughout Constable’s work the landscape dominates humanity, and the clouds dominate the landscape as though to show the insignificance of humankind on the landscape. His paintings remind me of Thomas Hardy novels from around that period, in which the landscape is also a character in the novels – always lowering darkly over the human condition.

The other constant in Constable’s paintings was the presence of cows 🙂

Constable said: “We see nothing until we truly understand it”. I think one could also reverse this thought to say: “We understand nothing until we truly see it”.

shadows at the National Gallery of Australia

Outside, the sun cast sharp shadows on the ground, and the cement structure contrasted with the trees in the background.

National Gallery of Australia

The exhibition is on until 12 June

Cheers

Jerry

2 Comments »

Pingback by inaminuteago - the blog » The Constable Exhibit and general chat

[…] Jerry wrote about his reactions to the exhibition in more detail and included a few photos he took outside the gallery. […]

Posted on May 7, 2006 at 8:05 am

Pingback by The Constable Exhibit and general chat « In a Minute Ago

[…] Jerry wrote about his reactions to the exhibition in more detail and included a few photos he took outside the gallery. […]

Posted on September 20, 2007 at 8:09 am

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