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Constable's art matured into greatness after 1815 the year of Waterloo when he exhibited Boatbuilding at the Royal Academy and abandoned the small canvases of his youth for the imposing 'six-footers' which made his reputation.
Flatford Mill was the first in a series of large canal scenes painted near the family home, which included The Hay Wain, Constable's most famous painting. But many of his admirers preferred The Cornfield one of his last Suffolk scenes which they presented to the National Gallery after his death in 1837.
The other landscapes are also charged with personal significance: Salisbury Cathedral, where his patron Dr John Fisher was Bishop; The Admiral's House, which he could see from his Hampstead window, and The Chain Pier, Brighton a view painted while his wife was struggling against TB. His gloom and desolation after her death can still be detected in the late water-colour, Stonehenge.
The only canvas Constable painted entirely out of doors shows his father's boatyard beside the River Stour, near Flatford Mill. The barges built here carried flour from the mill downstream to Mistley, on the coast.
On a warm, summer's day a boy unties his tow-horse from the barge before it passes under Flatford footbridge. It is late afternoon; in the meadow on the right a haymaker casts a long shadow as he finishes work for the day.
Constable's most famous painting shows the tranquil scene at Flatford Mill in early summer: only the dog looks up as an empty hay waggon crosses the Stour by Willie Lott's cottage on its way to the meadow beyond. The artist's own name for his picture which took five months to paint was Landscape: Noon. The sun is out of the picture, high and slightly in front of us; scudding clouds throw patches of shadow across the green fields.
The Bishop of Salisbury himself commissioned this painting, which records the view of the Cathedral seen from his garden. The bishop and his wife are shown by the gate on the left, looking at a storm cloud billowing over the spire. That cloud caused Constable a great deal of trouble: it was originally much darker, and the Bishop disliked it so much that he asked for the sky to be 'improved'
Constable's views of Hampstead then a small village outside London are often painted in the brisk, vigorous style of his oil studies. This one shows the house of Admiral Barton, with its strange roof laid out like a warship's quarter-deck, which the artist could see from his upstairs window.
A view near East Berg/wit shows the narrow lane which Constable took as a schoolboy on his way to Dedham. The metal plough is accurately observed, and the July flowers were copied from specimens, but unusually Constable invented the church tower seen in the distance.
Darkening clouds and a grey, storm-driven sea cast an air of gloom over fashionable Brighton, where Constable took his wife to Convalesce during the summers of 1824 and 1825. One of his very few seascapes, this picture was completed the year before Maria died.
This striking water-colour evolved from a pencil sketch Constable made on his only visit to Stonehenge 16 earlier. The startled hare in the left foreground was an afterthought,painted on a slip of paper and pasted on to the original.
Writer - Marshall Cavendish