Today we value Constable's pencil, pen, watercolour and oil sketches for their freshness and vitality. However, at the time when he was working, the public expected a highly polished oil painting, executed in the studio not in the open air. Constable did not find the production of these finished paintings easy, which probably contributed to his late recognition by the art establishment.
The first stage of Constable's work was usually done outdoors, in a sketchbook. These sketchbooks were his storehouse of images, and he referred to the 1813 and 1814 sketchbooks of Suffolk scenes for the rest of his life. Often he made a sketch for its own sake, with no finished painting in mind.
In the early 1800s, many painters such as Constable, sought to capture subtle effects of light and atmosphere by making small-scale oil sketches out of doors. In his open-air oil sketches, Constable applied colour in a variety of ways - rich impasto (thickly applied paint) and glazes (translucent oil paint), heavy dots of bright colour and light touches of pure white. Quick strokes with a brush bearing only a small amount of paint gave a dappled 'dry brush' effect, allowing the colours underneath to show through. Constable attempted the same fresh and rapid techniques when working on the final canvas back in his studio. He intended the varied paint surface to be examined close-up as well as viewed from a distance.
In 1888 thirty of Constable's oil sketches were given to the V&A by his daughter, Isabel Constable (1822 - 88). They are on display in Room 88 at the V&A South Kensington.
Barges on the Stour, with Dedham Church in the distanceJohn Constable (1776-183
Barges on the Stour, with Dedham Church in the distance, John Constable
Brighton Beach, with colliersJohn Constable (1776-1837)July 19, 1824Great Bri
Brighton Beach, with colliers, John Constable
Study of Cirrus CloudsJohn Constable (1776-1837) About 1822Oil on paperMuseu
Study of Cirrus Clouds, John Constable
Golding Constable's House, East BergholtJohn Constable (1776-1837)about 1811G
Golding Constable's House, East Bergholt, John Constable
Study of the trunk of an elm treeJohn Constable (1776-1837)about 1821Britain
Study of the trunk of an elm tree, John Constable
Study of cloudsJohn Constable (1776-1837)5 September 1822Great BritainOil on
Study of clouds, John Constable
The Grove, or Admiral's House, HampsteadJohn Constable (1776-1837) 1821-1822G
The Grove, or Admiral's House, Hampstead, John Constable
Landscape with a double rainbowJohn Constable (1776-1837)28 July 1812Great Br
Landscape with a double rainbow, John Constable