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John Constable

British, 1776-1837

John Constable was born in East Bergholt, Suffolk, June 11, 1776 and died in Hampstead, March 31, 1837.

The son of a prosperous Suffolk mill owner, Constable balked at joining the family business but remained deeply committed to his home terrain. He learned the rudiments of landscape composition by studying contemporary watercolors and Old Master paintings in the collection of the connoisseur Sir George Beaumont. In 1799 he enrolled in the Royal Academy Schools and dabbled briefly in religious painting and portraiture. Around 1809 he resolved to immerse himself in the scenery of his native Stour Valley. His direct, personal response to nature resulted in a pioneering approach to landscape. Having exhibited at the Royal Academy to little effect since 1802, he created a sensation in 1819 with the first of six large-scale views along the River Stour (his so-called "six-footer" canvases). He was elected an Associate of the Academy within months. The three paintings he exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1824 garnered instant acclaim, winning a gold medal and the enthusiastic praise of young French painters such as Eugène Delacroix. In England, however, the continued neglect of his landscapes caused Constable deep frustration. It was not until 1828 that he was elected a full Academician. In the 1830s, he taught the Royal Academy life class and lectured on the history of landscape.