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The View of Highgate from Hampstead Heath

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1834, 29×30.5 cm • Oil, Canvas

Description of the artwork «The View of Highgate from Hampstead Heath»

English landscape painter John Constable has been often and truly called the Father of Modern Impressionism. Though, if we recollect only his most famous artworks we would never be able to make a puzzle: their manner and technique is too far from Impressionism. To make this puzzle we have to keep in mind his sketches, drawings and paintings his peers deemed to be unfinished.

Constable worked a lot of time in the open air. Sometimes he tried to finish his artworks in the field but it was impossible because metal tubes for paints allowing comfortable painting outdoors had not been invented yet then. He executed hundreds of sketches. He took them so seriously that offered some of his studies for sale.
What did he paint in the open air besides his landscape sketches with views of lakes, dams and mills? First of all, he painted clouds just on his back on the ground and studying the dramaturgy of the sky. Secondly, he sketched different small things which could be useful for his future artworks like positions of peasants and animals, a plough, barks of different trees, whatnots including field flowers and weeds. Constable believed that a subject for depiction in art could be spotted under any fence. And he found them.

"The sound of water escaping from mill dams, willows, old rotten planks, slimy posts, and brickwork, I love such things. These scenes made me a painter, and I am grateful,"Constable wrote in one of his letters about how the simple landscape near the Stour river helped him to become a painter. John Constable was born in a small village in Suffolk. His father was a wealthy corn merchant, owner of a mill. The artist regularly came to this place for inspiration and picturesque landscapes.

The sketch The View of Highgate from Hampstead Heath was performed during the London period; the artist was happy in his marriage and moved to the capital city with his family while he spent summer in his country house on the outskirts of London. The sketch contained all the innovations making Constable famous: fast, courageous and broken brushstroke; enthusiastic attitude to a typical landscape; and a vibrant color palette.

Constable told that the best he heard about the painting skill was that shade and light always change. His attention to the vibrant light and shade environment made him a favorite artist of the French.

The year of 1824. Two days before the opening of the Salon, the most important showcase event. Eugène Delacroix brought there his Massacre at Chios. He chanced to see there the Hay Wain by Constable. He became enthusiastic over the painting and brought his Massacre at Chios back to his atelier to change the landscape background impressed by Constable’s “carelessness”.

Constable was appreciated and admired much more in France than in his motherland. He had the widest and most lasting influence on Impressionism due to Delacroix and the artists of the Barbizon School. Here in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts you can see Claude Monet’s study of his Luncheon on the Grass, with its most important and the only sense, to demonstrate that light and shade always change.

Author: Natalia Kandaurova
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About the artwork
Subject and objects: Landscape
Style of art and technique: Romanticism, Oil

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