John Constable:
Dedham from Langham

Click on the picture to see an enlarged version.

    • Oil on canvas
    • 1813
    • Tate Gallery, London

After spending some years working in the picturesque tradition of landscape as popularized by his Gainsborough (also from the Stour area), Constable developed his own original treatment. He sought to scenery more directly and realistically, and in the process, he modified the landscape tradition which English and European painters had learned from Ruisdael and the Dutch 17th-century landscape painters. But as this early picture shows, Constable wanted to do more than just minutely record.

Just as his great contemporary, the poet William Wordsworth, rejected what he called the "poetic diction" of his predecessors, so Constable turned away from the "pretty" conventions of 18th-century landscape painters. In a telling phrase, he claimed that those painters were always "running after pictures and seeking the truth at second hand." He wanted to capture in paint the full reality of landscape, which is a constantly changing combination of light, color, and forms.

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