John Constable (RA) (1776-1837)
'Study of Clouds'
Oil on paper
Museum no. 590-1888
In 1822 a fast-moving cloud would have been the very fastest thing a man had seen: faster than a horse, a ship or even Richard Trevithick's new steam locomotives. John Constable had an ecstatic approach to nature, but it was also a scientific one. One of the very first painters to distinguish cloud types, he worked in parallel to Luke Howard whose 1802 lecture 'On the Modification of Clouds' began the serious study of the sky. Constable's written notes reveal both an artistic liveliness and a technical precision (some of it borrowed from Howard), but when he said 'I have done a good deal of skying' he suggests an almost supra-natural mysticism. To Constable, painting was an intensely emotional activity: its beauty at first in the mind, then in the hand and lastly in the eye.
Stephen Bayley, Guest Curator