The remarkable naturalism of John Constable's paintings has always been acknowledged, and his 'vivid and timeless' (as he called them) oil sketches have been celebrated since the 1890s as precursors of Impressionism, modernism and photographic composition. He remains a powerful influence on contemporary artists, and was famously Lucian Freud's favourite painter. He was also hailed in 1866 as the first painter whose 'art is purely and thoroughly English', and his studio oil paintings have helped to define our idea of the English countryside. Published to accompany a major V&A exhibition, this book evaluates these aspects of Constable's work, placing the artist's naturalism and studio work in the context of his wider practice - in particular his talent for copying, and extensive print collection. A companion volume to John Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum (page6, V&A, 2011), this book shows how the artist's reverence for the Old Masters is not incompatible with his revolutionary handling of paint: where others competed with the Masters, Constable assimilated their ideas and values to imbue his own naturalistic vision with dynamism.
Mark Evans is Senior Curator of Paintings at the V&A. He has written extensively on painting from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century and is the author of numerous books including: The Painted World: From Illumination to Abstraction (V&A, 2005), Raphael: Cartoons and Paintings for the Sistine Chapel (V&A, 2010) and John Constable: Oil Sketches from the V&A (V&A, 2011).