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John Constable (1776-1837)

From its inception, Romanticism was preoccupied with landscape. Abandoning completely the historical scenes, religious subjects, and to a large extent portraiture, romantic artists turned to nature for inspiration and as a vehicle by which their emotions could be expressed.

The first of the artists to take up landscape was John Constable (1776-1837). After spending some years working in the picturesque tradition of landscape, especially as practiced by the popular works of his fellow countryman Gainsborough, Constable developed his own original treatment. He sought to render scenery more directly and realistically, thus carrying on but modifying in an individual way the tradition inherited from17th-century Dutch landscape painters. Just as his contemporary William Wordsworth rejected the artificial "poetic diction" of his predecessors, so Constable turned away from the pictorial conventions of 18th-century landscape painters. The result was a breathtakingly fresh look at the beauties of the world around us.

Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840)

Many art historians consider Constable a transitional figure, with roots firmly in the Dutch and English landscape school of the 17th and 18th centuries. Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) is clearly from another species entirely. His paintings are generally landscapes, it is true, but landscapes which are clearly designed to express the emotional and psychic state of the artist.

In these pictures, nature is transformed in order to reveal inner values, to portray the deepest emotions of the painter. Typically, Caspar David Friedrich uses nature to get at the really important goal of examining man.


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