Skip To Content

Your privacy is important. Our Cookies Statement explains how we use cookies on this site. You can change their use at any time. You accept them by continuing to use this site. Our Privacy Statement explains how we use and protect your data.

John Constable (1776-1837)

Biography of English painter John Constable (1776-1837)

John Constable (1776-1837) was born in East Bergholt on the 11th June 1776, the second son of Golding Constable who owned mills in the vicinity. His mother was Ann Watts.

Constable went to schools in Lavenham and Dedham. His father discouraged John Constable's interest in painting, forcing the young artist to paint away from his house, out of sight, painting out of doors, plein-air, which may well have provided the secret spring of success to his work.

By 1800, John Constable had taken matters entirely into his own hands and became a student at The Royal Academy.

The sea always fascinated John Constable and, in 1803, he persuaded one of his father's friends, a sea captain, to take him from Chatham to Deal. On this journey along the Thames to Kent, Constable made over a 100 sketches, including many of ships of the line.

For many years, Constable had known and loved one Maria Bicknell. After much opposition from her family, they eventually married in 1816, at Saint Martin-in-the-Fields in London. They lived first in Keppel Street and later in Charlotte Street.

In 1819, Constable was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy and in this year painted the famous White Horse, depicting a scene on the River Stour. From this time on, his stature grew in art circles and he finally started to sell some of his paintings.

By the year 1824, Constable's name had reached the Continent and he found dealers from Paris requesting his paintings. In 1824,the Hay Wain was exhibited at The Salon. Not only did it result in a Gold Medal for the artist, but Delacroix is alleged to have repainted one of his pictures after seeing it. There is no doubt Constable had a great influence on succeeding French painters of the nineteenth century and into the 20th Century.

By this time, John Constable had seven children, new found fame and some wealth after a relation of his wife's died and the Constables inherited a considerable fortune. Sadly after a long illness, Maria died in 1828. This very sad early death blighted John Constable for the remainder of his life.

After his election to the Royal Academy, John Constable commenced work on a large project, the English Landscape Engravings. His choice of engraver was David Lucas. After years of struggle with the project, the works were completed in 1833. The quality of these engravings ranks with the finest of the nineteenth century.

Another untimely death to effect John Constable was the passing of his studio assistant John Dunthorne in 1832.

Constable much admired and was influenced by Domenichino (as was Poussin), Claude, Rubens, Rembrandt and Ruysdael.

Constable had no time for imitators of artists' works. He often quoted the comment of his friend Sir George Beaumont: "I could never have believed that Claude Lorraine had so many faults, if I had not seen them all collected together on this canvas". Constable, therefore, concluded that it is useful to have imitators as they teach one what to avoid.

John Constable was working on, what was to be his last picture, Arundel Castle, when he had a heart attack at his home and studio in Charlotte Street in London. He died on the 31st March 1837 and was buried in St. John's Churchyard in Hampstead.

Related Departments

Related Fine Art Categories

John Constable (1776-1837) Related Lots

Lot FS28/409

Lot FS28/409: John Constable RA [Suffolk 1776-1837 London] - Landscape with Horses

John Constable RA [Suffolk 1776-1837 London] - Landscape with horses - oil sketch on canvas 24 x 36cm.

Estimate: £40,000 - £60,000
Realised: £252,000