Constable in the RA Collection

  Landscape Study: Cottage and Rainbow, oil on paper laid on board, ca.1808-16
Constable began making open-air oil studies in about 1808. This sketch was painted at East Bergholt, Suffolk when he was most actively sketching his native scenery. It is one of the earliest examples of Constable including a rainbow in a composition, a natural phenomenon that would soon become a favourite motif for the artist.

  Flatford Lock, A Path by a River, oil on canvas on board, ca.1810-12
The River Stour was a significant source of inspiration for Constable. He said ‘Painting is another word for feeling. I associate my "careless boyhood" to all that lies on the banks of the Stour. They made me a painter (& I am gratefull [sic]) that is I had often thought of pictures of them before I had even touched a pencil.’

  Flatford Mill from a Lock on the Stour, oil on paper laid on canvas, ca.1811
Although river, trees and sky dominate this sketch, Constable included details of human interaction with nature via agriculture and industry. To the left is one of his father's mills and in the background the tiny figures of haymakers at work, all of which depend on the natural elements for survival.

  The Leaping Horse, oil on canvas, 1825
This six-foot canvas depicts a tow horse leaping over a cattle barrier on the towpath along the River Stour. Constable applied much of the paint with a palette knife but worked some areas such as the horse, boy and sky into finer detail with his brush. Although he worked on this picture from sketches, its surface has the appearance of being hastily applied. Dashes of pure colour and vivid highlights help to convey the atmosphere of a blustery day.

  A Boat passing a Lock, oil on canvas, 1826
This composition is a variation on another that Constable exhibited at RA in 1824. It depicts a boat ascending the River Stour. It is tied to a post while the lock keeper lowers the level, so that it can enter the chamber before being lifted to the upper level of the river.

  Waterloo Bridge from the left bank of the Thames, oil on paper laid on canvas, ca.1820
In 1819 Constable began sketching the Thames around Whitehall Stairs. This may be a study for his painting of the Prince Regent opening Charles Rennie's Waterloo Bridge in 1817 (1832, coll. Tate Britain). However this sketch is a topographical scene, showing Somerset House and St. Paul’s in the distance, rather than a record of a specific event.

  Cloud Study, Hampstead, Tree at Right, oil on paper laid on board, 1821
Constable disliked the formality of city parks and to escape urban artifice he looked to the wilder landscape of Hampstead Heath and the skies above it. This sketch was painted on an autumn morning. It is inscribed on reverse: Hampstead, Sept 11, 1821. 10 to 11 morning under the sun - Clouds silvery grey on warm ground sultry. Light wind to the S.W. fine all day - but rain in the night following.

  Cloud Study: Horizon of Trees, oil on paper laid on board, 1821
In 1821 Constable began to make studies of clouds in an attempt to capture their transient energy. The cloud studies in the Royal Academy collection are anchored by the inclusion of treetops. Constable made notes on the reverse of such sketches that underline his analytical observation of weather conditions. In this instance he wrote: Noon 27 Sept very bright after rain wind West.

  Hampstead Heath looking towards Harrow (I), oil on paper laid on board, 1821
This is the third sky and landscape study of Hampstead Heath that Constable made on this day. It was sketched at 4pm, while the others were done at 10am and noon (see previous sketch).

  Hampstead Heath looking towards Harrow (I), detail of reverse
The notes on the reverse read: 4 afternoon 27 Septr 1821 wood bank of Vale very warm and bright after rain.

  Landscape Study: Hampstead looking west, oil on paper laid on canvas, 1821
In the summer of 1819, Constable rented a house in Hampstead. He returned there year after year before settling permanently there in 1827. The Heath became a key sketching ground and Constable often jotted weather notes on the reverse of the studies he executed. This work is inscribed: Hampstead July 14 1821 6 to 7 pm N.W. breeze strong.

  Hampstead Heath looking west towards Harrow (II), oil on paper laid on canvas, ca.1821
Constable favoured painting the view from Hampstead Heath westwards towards Harrow. He repeatedly sketched this vista under varying weather conditions. This sketch was made from the West Heath. Branch Hill Pond can be seen at the lower right-hand side and Harrow in the centre.

  Landscape Study: Scene in a Park, oil on paper laid on canvas, ca.1823
Although this sketch is frequently described as a Hampstead scene, it is more likely to depict Green Park looking towards Apsley House. Constable focuses upon the trees and sky to create the atmosphere of the park, rather than the actions or expressions of the figures, which are broadly sketched to add accents of colour.

  Landscape Study: Figures by a Clump of Trees, oil on paper laid on board, ca.1823
Although this picture is often said to depict Hampstead, several art historians believe that it is comparable to Constable's views of Green Park. Furthermore the number of people walking and riding suggests a central London or Westminster Park rather than the wilder, windy terrain of the Heath.

  Seascape Study: Brighton Beach looking west, oil on paper laid on canvas, ca.1824-28
In 1819 Constable's wife Maria contracted tuberculosis. The couple frequented Brighton from 1824 hoping that the sea air would improve her health. Constable however disliked the crowded town, complaining that it was ‘the receptacle of the fashion and offscouring of London’. Nevertheless from 1824 to 1828 he made some of his most dramatic coast and cloud studies there.

  Rainstorm over the Sea, oil on paper laid on canvas, ca.1824-28
This is one of the most dramatic studies of sea and sky that Constable sketched at Brighton. The thunderous black clouds and torrential downpour have been painted rapidly to capture the fleeting nature of the scene.

  Seascape Study: Boat and Stormy Sky, oil on paper laid on board, ca.1824-28
When sketching in Brighton, Constable would balance his paint-box on his knees and make open-air sketches on paper that he had placed into its lid. Passing storms challenged him to make dramatic studies at speed. In this work the boat's red mast adds a vivid highlight to the grey-blue of the rolling clouds and squally sea.

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