Constable's observation of weather & light

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MaryAnne Stevens introduces Constable's sketches

  One of the wonderful legacies that Constable has left us is this extraordinary array of oil sketches, quite small scale, usually done on paper mounted on panel or canvas, done directly in front of the motif or the subject.

  He in fact embarked upon this exercise relatively early in his career, there are some very beautiful early sketches of 1804, 1805, but the core, the bulk of the material was produced after 1819 when he moved to Hampstead.

  It's then that he brings together scientific observation of weather phenomena and direct observation of the external world, be it a view across the tops of the trees at Hampstead Heath,

  or whether it's looking at the sea at Brighton, and bringing the two together to create a repertoire of very specific light effects, as light conditioned by the weather and the cloud configuration falls upon the landscape below.

  And it was with this, rather like a card index of images, that he could then pull out and abstract the sort of sky effects that he wished to insert into his large finished landscapes which were of course always produced within the studio over the winter period, these were not painted on site.

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