Friday, April 04, 2014

Arty Farty Friday ~ John Constable, Master of the English Landscape

John Constable was born not far from where one of my grandfathers was born. The last of the images below shows my grandfather's birthplace, Stoke-by-Nayland.

John Constable, self portrait (1806) left, was born in 1776 in rural Suffolk, in the south-east of England. He is one of England's best-known landscape painters. The artist's most famous works are based on the Suffolk countryside into which he was born and grew to love. His techniques and methods of capturing natural light and movement were innovative, modern artists still find them inspirational.

He was son of a prosperous miller, came to art as a profession fairly late in life, after working in his father's milling business, always with an abiding interest in art awakened by some early coaching from a local amateur artist. He never moved far from the south of England, where he found more than enough beautiful scenery and cloud-dappled skies to satisfy him. According to his first biographer, Constable was known in the neighbourhood as the "handsome miller", being "tall and well formed … with a fresh complexion, and fine dark eyes". Most of what is known about Constable’s personality comes from his letters. These show an emotional and affectionate man who was also capable of sarcasm and over-sensitivity. He married late, aged 40, in 1816, fathered seven children. His wife sadly died from tuberculosis in 1828, leaving Constable devastated. He died aged 61.

Born on 11 June 1776 in East Bergholt (8 miles from Ipswich), Suffolk, England. Astrotheme offers a time of birth giving Aries Moon, Aries rising, but Astrodatabank gives none. I've shown a 12 noon chart which is sufficient for a quick look.

Hmmm. 4 planets in Gemini, not exactly what I'd have expected to see. Gemini doesn't represent the staid stay-around-home mindset we are led to believe was Constable's. But balancing that Airy Gemini potential social butterfly image we have Mercury and Jupiter in home-loving, family-loving Cancer. In Constable's case it looks as though Cancerian traits beat down his Geminian traits. The quotations of Constable scattered between images of his paintings below indicate to me that he was no slouch when it came to putting words together: Gemini!

Constable had a Neptune/Pluto trine; it doesn't link cleanly to an Earthy personal planet, but does loosely aspect Venus by trine in early Gemini - which produces still, technically, a Grand Trine in Earth, and links Neptune's creativity and Venus's art with Pluto's passion and potentially dark side, perhaps reflecting the shadow from Constable's devastating early loss of his wife.

Examples of his paintings. We had several of these on the walls of our school classrooms, long ago.

Click on the images for bigger, better views.

The Cornfield (For US viewers - corn in Britain = wheat, not sweetcorn as in USA)

My art flatters nobody by imitation, it courts nobody by smoothness, nobody by petitelieness without either fal-de-lal or fiddle-de-dee; how then can I hope to be popular?
From letter to Mr. C. R. Leslie 22 June 1832

The Hay Wain

Painting is a science and should be pursued as an inquiry into the laws of nature. Why, then, may not a landscape be considered as a branch of natural philosophy, of which pictures are but experiments?
(John Constable)

The White Horse

Light – dews – breezes – bloom – and freshness; not one of which... has yet been perfected on the canvas of any painter in the world. (John Constable)

How sweet and beautifull is every place & I visit my old Haunts with renewed delight... nothing can exceed the beautiful green of the meadows which are beginning to fill with butter Cups — & various flowers — the birds are singing from morning trill night but most of all the Sky larks — How delightfull is the Country.
Letter to his wife, Maria (20 April 1821); as quoted in Leslie Parris and Ian Fleming-Williams, Constable (Tate Gallery Publications, London, 1993), p. 28

Dedham Mill

There is nothing ugly; I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may, – light, shade, and perpective will always make it beautiful.
(John Constable)

But the sound of water escaping from mill-dams, &c., willows, old rotten planks, slimy posts, and brickwork, I love such things. Shakespeare could make everything poetical; he tells us of poor Tom's haunts among "sheep cotes and mills." As long as I do paint, I shall never cease to paint such places. They have always been my delight.
From letter to Rev. John Fisher (23 October 1821), from John Constable's Correspondence, part 6, pp. 76-78

Salisbury Cathedral

I associate my 'careless boyhood' with all that lies on the banks of the Stour. Those scenes made me a painter and I am grateful – that is, I had often thought of pictures of them before ever I touched a pencil... (John Constable)

Ive added the two below, even though they don't translate to screen well, because they are Constable's paintings of the birthplace of my paternal grandfather, Stoke-by-Nayland, Suffolk.

"I am glad you encouraged me with the 'Stoke' [his painting 'Stoke-by-Nayland', circa 1835] What say you to a summer morning? July or August, at eight or nine o’clock, after a slight shower during the night, to enhance the dews in the shadowed part of the picture, under 'Hedge row elms and hillocks green.' Then the plough, cart, horse, gate, cows, donkey, &c. are all good paintable material for the foreground, and the size of the canvas sufficient to try one’s strength, and keep one at full collar."
From letter to William Purton (6 February 1836), as quoted in Leslie Parris and Ian Fleming-Williams, Constable (Tate Gallery Publications, London, 1993), p. 380


mike said...

I had to look-up the "&c" in his quotes means "etc".

I had a notion of him prior to your post, but slight at best. Apparently, his work with watercolor is superb..."Constable's watercolours were also remarkably free for their time: the almost mystical Stonehenge, 1835, with its double rainbow, is often considered to be one of the greatest watercolours ever painted." (Parkinson, Ronald (1998)

Another artist that didn't reach full acclaim and appreciation until the posthumous years.

From his writings, he seems frustrated with his lack of success. He has a Mercury sq Saturn...which may be a cardinal T-sq if his Moon is a few degrees earlier...this may have made him feel insecure and a bit fearful of failure. His Venus, Mars, Uranus conj is interesting...quirky, independent, cool-to-the-touch kinda guy...LOL.

Twilight said...

mike ~ &c - not seen very often these days, which is surprising considering the abbreviations around due to Twitter (4U, 2be..) :-)

The watercolour you mention is lovely, that's one I'd definitely put on my wall (at least a print of it!)

Mercury square Saturn - yes! also harking back to my post about "the triad", he has "Discord" going on with Sun and Venus in the same sign with Mercury in neighbouring sign. Was Venus his "Guiding Planet? That'd fit.

mike (again) said...

Uranus is his oriental, guiding planet, which fits, too. Most articles on oriental planets state that it's the closest-to-the-Sun-planet rising prior to the Sun. I have read several articles that say all planets in the 10th-12th houses are oriental. His Venus-Mars-Uranus conjunction is tight, so they might best be viewed as on unit. Michael Lutin often makes comments about any one OR cluster of planets rising above the Sun as significant. Constable's Jupiter is occidental, weakened.

Yes, I like his "Stonehenge" series, too. I'm glad he had "one of the greatest ever" imbued to this, even if not in his lifetime.

There's always hope that we plebeians can have masterpieces on our walls:
Stolen Gauguin painting 'hung on factory worker's wall'

mike (again) said...

Off topic - Bravo to Catherine Engelbrecht!!!!! Go girl...

"Catherine Engelbrecht gives a heart wrenching testimony to Congress about being being preyed upon by the IRS and other government agencies. Please share wide and far to show support for Catherine and political freedom in this country. — in Washington, DC."

Video at:

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Thanks - yes the cluster fits too.

Re original valuable paintings...amazing! I'm always amazed too, when on 'Antiques Roadshow' someone shows up with a painting they allege they had pulled out of a garbage bin outside an empty house, or found in Goodwill and it turns out to be worth many many thousands of $$$$$$$$.

The only original I have (other than those painted by husband) is one I found stashed under a table in an art store in Florence, Colorado, some 7 or 8 years ago. It's by a fairly well known local-ish (now in New Mexico) artist, Jim Rabby - from his early days, long before he went all modern and manic. I fell in love with it (a harbour scene in oils done boldly mostly with a palette knife rather than a brush I think) and got it for half the price it was advertised on line. Maybe it'll be the foundation of my fortune - but I very much doubt it. :-)


I shall look into the video on Catherine Engelbrecht in the morning, when eyes less bleary. Thanks for the link