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Drawing research paper: John Constable

Last updated on 26.05.2020

The second son of Golding constable and Miss Ann Watts

Constable’s friend, C.R. Leslie, told Constable’s story of how he first became an artist from the letters that Constable sent throughout his art career. On June 11, 1776, John Constable was born as “The second son of Golding constable and Miss Ann Watts”. Starting at a young age, Constable was jumped between boarding schools at peak times in his life, where he eventually started to hate his caretakers.

At his final school in Denham, his caretaker realized that he was incredibly smart, where he “Excelled in his penmanship, and gradually progressed in learning Latin and French”.

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First Interest in Art

At about the age of 16 or 17, he first got an interest in the arts, more specifically into painting, where one of his first works was a landscape consisting of his father’s windmill that he worked at. As Constable progressed as an artist, George Beaumont gave copies of paintings from Claude and Girtin as a study material to guide him in the direction of landscape subjects. From studying their works, Constable was able to obtain the inspiration to create works of nature and landscapes. From the letters that Leslie has gathered, Constable traveled to various cities After his visit to London in 1795 and drew landscapes of wherever he was.

Career start

As Constable got older and his art career started to grow, he grew an interest in “meteorological phenomena”, more specifically with clouds and rainbows. Paul Schweizer (1982) described how through his drawings the rainbow eventually became a “personal emblem”.

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What first got Constable’s interest in implementing rainbows in his work is the rainbow’s compatibility with certain structures along a landscape, making the rainbow noticeable, while the rainbow is illustrated as a relatively subtle detail amongst the other objects along the landscape.

The only structures that would appear along with a rainbow are “Cottages, windmills, and churches, which all are established in his childhood home in East Bergholt”. He has gone to the extent of “Defying the laws of optics”, where he would put rainbows into a landscape where it wouldn’t normally have that feature.

Impact on the scientific community

Due to the appearance of the feature in relation to the structures in his works and the landscape drawings that he creates, Constable had made an impact on the science community because the rainbows looked so accurate that people took his drawings and measured the trajectory of the rainbow and other natural occurrences, and compared it to theoretical measurements if the rainbow were to happen in a particular location.

Important Pictures at the End of a Career

Three of Constable’s drawings displayed from his late career are “Maudlin, near Chichester”, “Young Pollards”, and “A Mill Near Colchester”. Most of Constable’s drawings primarily feature graphite as the medium of choice, but some are done over in watercolor to give the objects in the drawing more definition. Some of his drawings feature more shading than others, which give objects a three-dimensional form. The concentration of the strokes of graphite along the paper can make it easier to distinguish two objects from one another.

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In “Maudlin, near Chichester”, there’s relatively little shading in the trees or homes along the landscape, which makes the inference that Constable’s sight of the landscape straight on. In the bottom of “Maudlin, near Chichester”, the stokes of the graphite are relatively loose, so it makes some objects in the landscape more difficult to distinguish what the object is even supposed to be or the relative position between the two objects.

In “Young Pollards”, the trees along the landscape are more clearly defined. There is much more shading amongst the trees, giving the trees a three-dimensional form, and a sense of light direction. The strokes of the graphite are clearly defined, making two objects distinguishable in the drawing. This also improves the appearance of smaller details in the drawing, such as the leaves on the trees, or being able to make out blades of grass along the bases of the trees in the landscape.

A Mill Near Colchester

In Constable’s drawing of “A Mill Near Colchester”, there is accurate detail in anything natural-appearing along the landscape, such as the trees and the windmill along the background, and the birds in the sky. Adding color to the drawing gives the objects more uniqueness to them, making the drawing livelier. Drawing the leaves on the tree in the foreground flowing towards the left side of the drawing makes it appear that the tree is swaying to the left due to a wind gust blowing against the tree and the windmill.

Since he had a meteorological interest in clouds and rainbows, the clouds were drawn in relatively good but subtle detail, as if the clouds have a unique shape and were moving in the sky. Due to the scaling of the objects in the background with respect to the foreground, the horizon looks much farther away to the windmill and tree within the foreground, which makes it feel like the viewer’s field of vision expands as you go farther back into the drawing. This drawing had significant value to Constable since he “gave a copy to his friend Charles Robert Leslie before Leslie’s departure to America in 1833”.

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From the pictures illustrated above, I enjoy Constable’s style and theme of his drawings because viewing nature most of the time would put someone in a relaxed state. Putting a lot of detail into something subtle makes the object easily distinguishable and can potentially feel like it can come alive off the page. Drawing an object in a certain fashion, such as the blowing leaves in “A Mill Near Colchester”, can make the viewer easily visualize the object in that motion, and can infer some of the other objects in the drawing moving in a similar pattern.

When I look at any of Constable’s drawings, I start to feel calm because seeing the detail within the natural objects and the windmill makes it easy to visualize myself in that setting, feeling the breeze that is blowing against the tree, seeing the windmills turn from the same breeze, and gazing at the vast landscape from the structure of the windmill in the foreground and the expansive horizon in the background.

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