A View Of Osmington Bay, Dorset, Looking Towards Portland Island
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John Constable * chosen by Lucian Freud
Immediately on entering the exhibition, two paintings a tree trunk and a nude introduce this exhibition of paintings by Constable, hand-picked by Freud. Lucian Freud's nude, with it's coarse, weathered skin expresses the same realism as Constable's tree trunk with it's deformed branches and cracked bark. Lucian Freud's people and Constable's trees are similar in that the older they are the more beautiful they grow, the more precious they become, the richer their fruit, and the higher their achievement. Moreover, there is an intense emotion in both painters that binds everything together like a leitmotiv: you can almost hear their hearts beat in tune.
After this subtle introduction, the visitor then plunges into the world of John Constable, the 19th century gentleman farmer-miller turned artist who indicated the path of 20th century painting through a shaded lane somewhere in the Suffolk countryside.
Constable knew by heart each tree, each corner of the countryside he painted. As a little boy he must have drunk from that little stream in 'The Cornfield' on a hot summer day, and he must have taken that same road as in the painting when he went to grammar school at Dedham.
Every hour of the day brought a different meaning to the daily drama of life around the valley of the river Stour. Here everything and everyone had a clear-cut role to play: the river irrigated the two pieces of land and powered the mill that transformed the harvest; the barges were used to carry the flour and even the horse that pulled the barges; boys drove the towing horses that pulled the barges; men built the boats shaded by the trees; the dogs tended the sheep; and the sky announced the hour.
Constable's trust in nature sprang from the feeling of belonging to that familiar space that he called home. "Those scenes made me a painter, and I am grateful".
He chose to recreate the complexity of life within the simplicity of natural scenes in the countryside surrounding his birthplace at East Bergholt. This is in the Stour valley the little river that separates Essex from Suffolk to the North of London and his native village looked out over the Dedham Vale close to Flatford where his father, a wealthy corn merchant, owned several mills.
Read further on Constable's life, work and chronological biography