Reviewed by Barbara Brown
The Royal Academy of Arts show, the Late Constable exhibition, is dedicated to the last decade of his life. It was sad part of his life, as his wife Maria had died leaving him with 7 children under the age of twelve. I think it was an intense, challenging period for this famous landscape artist. Despite grief, fragile health and all his responsibilities as a single parent, his artistic achievement in his 50s were extraordinary.
Constable took landscape art to a new, serious level. As you look at his paintings from this period, you notice behind the darkness there is always light, such as sunlight behind storm clouds. The light that he sets in motion across the surface of his pictures creates a special effect. It is ‘Constable snow’. You can feel his gift of capturing the world around him. The air vibrates with energy.
Just look at ‘A Farmhouse near the Water’s Edge’ c.1834-1836. You can feel the wind moving the water, and the tension in the atmosphere. There are rapid impressionist brush marks trying to catch moment.
Constable spent time in Hampstead, living in Well Walk. During this period, he painted Hampstead Heath several times including, ‘Vignette: Hampstead Heath’, painted in 1828, which again featured strong darkness and light.
The last picture, interrupted by his death is ‘Arundel Mill and Castle’,1837. It is an wonderful composition: an English river, woods, hills and Arundel Castle pushed into the background. On 1st of April 1837 Constable died unexpectedly at the age of 60. He was buried alongside his wife Maria at St-John’s church, Hampstead where I often walk as I live not far from the old the graveyard. As I look at his grave, I have his landscapes of timeless imagination in my mind.
Barbara Brown, London Art Lover