John Constable (1776-1837)

The great English landscape painter was born in Suffolk, the son of a rich mill owner. It was decided he should aim for the church, but his patron, Sir George Beaumont, encouraged his artistic proclivities, and in 1799/1800 he became a student at the Royal Academy Schools. In 1811 (this is a diversion) Constable proposed to Maria Bicknell, and while she was willing, her grandfather, the wealthy Revd. Dr Durand Rhudde, was not, considering an artist rather less than a good match. At this time, Constable painted a rare watercolour of East Bergholt Church (where Rhudde was Rector) and sent it to his mother, who promptly sent it as a present to Rhudde, thinking to thus reduce his opposition to the marriage. However, Rhudde was unwilling to feel in debt to the painter, and enclosed with his thank you letter payment for the picture. Constable did finally marry Maria Bicknell, but only after six years had passed, and without the consent of her grandfather. The picture is in the Lady Lever Gallery.

Constable became ARA in 1819 and RA in 1829. Before that, in 1824, an exhibition of his paintings at the Paris Salon caused a great sensation, and had a major effect on the course of French landscape painting. He lived in Hampstead from 1827, where he found many of his themes in landscape.

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