Monday, 8 February 2010

Visiting Constable Country

In 2006 there was an exhibition of Constable - The Great Landscapes at Tate Britain which featured the "six footer" canvases that John Constable produced of the views around and about the River Stour and other places in the UK.

The Tate Britain exhibition briefing indicates that his move to larger canvases was part of a strategy to become noticed by the Royal Academy of Arts and to paint on a scale equivalent to the classical landscape artists.

The exhibition was particularly interesting as it showed how his paintings were produced and we saw the different stages from tiny sketchbooks to full-scale preliminary oil sketches for some of them. The Tate site says
These large sketches, with their free and vigorous brushwork were unprecedented at the time and they continue to fascinate artists, scholars and the general public. It has been said that it is this practice more than any other aspect of Constable's work which establishes him as an avant-garde painter, resolved to re-think the demands of his art and to address them in an entirely new way. The exhibition re-unites the full-scale sketches with their corresponding finished pictures in order to explore their role in Constable's working practice
You can see more of Constable's paintings on the Art Renewal website - John Constable

It's well worth visiting Constable Country and especially Flatford and the River Stour as much of it is very recognisable from Constable's paintings.

The last time I visited the National Trust's Bridge Cottage museum at Flatford Mill had an exhibition of reproductions of the six foot canvases of working life on the River Stour that his finished paintings were produced from in his studio.

That exhibition also shows where each painting was done and also displayed reproductions of some of the small sketches that he did for each painting.

Below you can see some of my photographs of the painting of the boatyard "Boat-Building" and what it looks like today


(Left) A reproduction of Boat-building near Flatford Mill (1815) by John Constable (1776-1837); Oil on canvas, 50.8 x 61.6 cm
(Right: Dry Dock photographed by me 2nd October 2005
all photos copyright Katherine Tyrrell
This portrays the construction of a barge at a dry-dock owned by Constable's father. It is based on a tiny pencil drawing in a sketchbook at the V&A. Constable painted the landscape entirely in the open air. His biographer praised its 'atmospheric truth', such that 'the tremulous vibration of the heated air near the ground seems visible'.
Narrative by Victoria and Albert Museum
This is the mill pond next to Willy Lott's cottage made famous in The Hay Wain (for further details see here)

all photos copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Walking and Cycling in Constable Country

To my mind you can' beat visiting the places where great landscape art was produced to really get a full appreciation of the landscape that the artist was painting - and how well they captured the sense of place in their work.

The National Trust has created a Constable Country walk

One of the best ways to experience the countryside that John Constable knew and loved is to walk around the picturesque Stour Valley.

By following in the footsteps of Constable you’ll have a better appreciation of the trees, rivers, sounds and light captured on canvass by one of the greatest British painters of all time.

To help guide you, we’ve added a special downloadable Constable Walk on the website, featuring a walk from Manningtree Station to Flatford. Manningtree Station is on the London Liverpool Street – Ipswich/Norwich line.

The 60-mile Painters Trail cycle route is another great way to experience the areas of Suffolk and Essex made famous by painters such as Constable. There are also bus routes across the county to the Stour Valley.

National Trust - Constable Country Walk

While Suffolk County Council has set up the Suffolk Painters Trail Cycle Route

Painter's Trail

If you enjoy painting, you may be interested in the Painter's Trail, which is a 69 mile long cycle route through the picturesque and historic Dedham Vale, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Trail pack at £3.50 includes a map of the route and essential information on places to see, where to stay, and a painter's fact file.

To obtain a pack, contact the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Project, telephone: 01473 264263.
Suffolk County Council Cycle Routes
Have you visited the places where great landscape art was produced?

Have you made a point of visiting the places frequented by great landscape artists? If so, who's the artist and where did you go?

If you produce a blog post about your visit, let me know and I'll reference it on this blog.

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