Find, Learn, Price Art
Enjoy the comprehensive art database we've compiled since 1987
Membership Details
Images, sales charts, bios, signatures, 30 artist Alerts and more ...
Art auction records:  Millions of references for pricing research
Or, register for Free Alerts
To track 10 artists.

Already a member?  Sign in here

John Constable

 (1776 - 1837)
John Constable was active/lived in United Kingdom, England.  John Constable is known for regional rural landscape and rural scene painting, figure drawing.

John Constable

    KAHN-stuh-bull  speaker-click to hear pronunciation  click to hear

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for John Constable

John Constable was the first English painter to paint directly from nature in the open air, and the first to paint foliage really green. He was a painter whose brush seems to have responded with a perception of its own in accord with the artist's mood. There is an evident difference between the early years of search and fulfillment, when he painted in a happy mood, and the later years of his life when the same motifs were reinterpreted in slashing brushwork in his years of despondency following the death of his wife, Maria. He suffered from much insecurity during the years of struggle for recognition.  He became both rich and famous, without serious money problems, but he became more withdrawn, pessimistic and racked with doubts as to his achievements, while producing some of his finest work.

Constable was born in 1776 in the Suffolk village of East Bergholt, where his father owned water mills on the River Stour.  He lived a life of blameless bourgeois obscurity, alternating between London and the Suffolk countryside. He spent years of inconclusive study at the Royal Academy.  At thirty-three, Constable fell in love with Maria Bicknell who was twenty-one.  Her grandfather so strongly objected to her marrying an artist with no promising future that they were forced to postpone the wedding for six years. Maria died at forty of pulmonary tuberculosis, having borne seven children after difficult pregnancies during a period of ten years of increasing invalidism.

Constable was a doting father, frequently taking the children on vacations.  The seven children remain rather vague figures except for the eldest, John, a moody youth who shared his father's love of nature and was so distressed by his father's death, when young John was twenty, that he could not attend the funeral.  John then entered Cambridge to read theology, but died of scarlet fever in 1841, a disease that had already claimed Constable's daughter Emily in 1839 at the age of fourteen.  In 1853, another son, Alfred, drowned in the Thames. Another son, Charles, became a sailor in his early teens, traveling to India and China.  The eldest daughter, named for Maria, but called Minna, did her best as head of the small orphanage that her father left behind.

Constable failed to gain full recognition in the Royal Academy, in spite of his efforts to play the necessary political games.  His frustration turned to resentment and criticism when a few weeks after Maria's death he was elected Royal Academician. Her death completely shattered him and he wore mourning for the nine remaining years of his life. But the paintings he produced at that period were among his best. The 18th century was an age of romanticism, which the English found in landscape and seascape that were more personalized than any of their time. Constable felt no need to travel; there was in the area around him enough drama to last forever.  Mood and climate were one with him.

Constable was of course only incidentally a water colorist, and the majority of his works in this medium are notes, brilliant in execution but intended only for future reference in the composition of oil paintings.  It is incomprehensible that his genius can have been so neglected in his own time. Had he not had independent means, it would have been impossible for him to devote his energies to the landscape painting which revolutionized the visual habits of Europe.

Constable always lived under the artistic shadow of J.M.W. Turner, who was almost his own age, but far more successful in contemporary eyes.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.
John Canaday in Architectural Digest
Time Magazine, May 9, 1969
Robert Hughes in Time Magazine, March 1, 1976
John Ashbery in Newsweek, April 25, 1983
Metropolitan Museum of Art Miniatures, English Water Colors
Time Magazine, July 5, 1963.
Glorious Days in the Country by William Feaver in ARTnews, October, 1991

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for John Constable
John Constable (1776 - 1837)

John Constable was born in East Bergholt, a village on the River Stour in Suffolk, to Golding and Ann Constable.  His father was a wealthy corn merchant, owner of Flatford Mill in East Bergholt and, later, Dedham Mill.  Golding Constable also owned his own small ship, The Telegraph, which he moored at Mistley on the Stour estuary and used to transport corn to London.  Although Constable was his parents' second son, his older brother was mentally handicapped, and so John was expected to succeed his father in the business, and after a brief period at a boarding school in Lavenham, he was enrolled in a day school in Dedham. Constable worked in the corn business after leaving school, but his younger brother eventually took over the running of the mills.

In his youth, Constable embarked on amateur sketching trips in the surrounding Suffolk countryside that was to become the subject of a large proportion of his art.  These scenes, in his own words, "made me a painter, and I am grateful"; "the sound of water escaping from mill dams etc., willows, old rotten planks, slimy posts, and brickwork, I love such things."  He was introduced to George Beaumont, a collector, who showed him his prized Hagar and the Angel by Claude Lorrain, which inspired Constable.  Later, while visiting relatives in Middlesex, he was introduced to the professional artist John Thomas Smith, who advised him on painting but also urged him to remain in his father's business rather than take up art professionally.

In 1799, Constable persuaded his father to let him pursue art, and Golding even granted him a small allowance.  Entering the Royal Academy Schools as a probationer, he attended life classes and anatomical dissections as well as studying and copying Old Masters.  Among works that particularly inspired him during this period were paintings by Thomas Gainsborough, Claude Lorrain, Peter Paul Rubens, Annibale Carracci and Jacob van Ruisdael. By 1803, he was exhibiting paintings at the Royal Academy.

Constable adopted a routine of spending the winter in London and painting at East Bergholt in the summer.  And in 1811 he first visited John Fisher and his family in Salisbury, a city whose cathedral and surrounding landscape were to inspire some of his greatest paintings.

In 1835, his last lecture to the students of the RA, in which he praised Raphael and called the R.A. the "cradle of British art", was "cheered most heartily".  He died on the night of the 31st March, apparently from indigestion, and was buried with Maria in the graveyard of St John-at-Hampstead, Hampstead. (His children John Charles Constable and Charles Golding Constable are also buried in this family tomb.)

Trinity House Paintings,

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Share an image of the Artist

  Full access to biographies is
  free each Friday
Biography photo for John Constable

About  John Constable

Born:  1776 - East Bergholt, Suffolk, England
Died:   1837 - London, England
Known for:  regional rural landscape and rural scene painting, figure drawing