(b. 1776, East Bergholt, d. 1837, Hampstead)
The Stour-Valley with the Church of Dedham1814
Oil on canvas, 56 x 78 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Constable was the son of a prosperous mill-owner in Suffolk, a county whose scenery became central to his work. Though he took painting lessons in Suffolk, he was largely self-taught. In 1795, he went to London and he entered the Royal Academy schools in 1799. As a student he copied Old Master landscapes, especially those of Jacob van Ruisdael.
Though deeply impressed by the work of Claude Lorrain and the watercolours of Thomas Girtin, Constable believed the actual study of nature was more important than any artistic model. He refused to "learn the truth second-hand." To a greater degree than any other artist before him, Constable based his paintings on precisely drawn sketches made directly from nature. His early work also included portraits and some religious pictures, but from 1820 onwards he devoted himself almost exclusively to landscape painting. His subjects were found in the parts of England that he knew best, mainly Suffolk and Essex, and also Brighton.