Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 12.djvu/47

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Constable
Constable
41

hall Stairs, June 18tli, 1817.' Though of extraordinary brilliance in its lighting and colour, it achieyed no success at its exhibition. Notwithstanding the years taken in its execution it was judged unfinished even by his friend Stothard. In this picture Constable carried his suppression of uetail in order to gain general truth and power of effect to an extreme if not excess. It was almost entirely executed with the palette knife, and was probably the cause of the artist's writing to Leslie in 1833 : 'I have laid it (the palette knife) down, but not till I had cut my throat with it.' In 1836 was exhibited 'The Valley Farm,' which was purchased by Mr. Vernon and is now in the National Gallery. In 1832 he lost his friend Archdeacon Fisher, and in the same year died John Dunthome (the son of his older friend of the same name), who had for many years worked as his assistant in London, and had been set up by him as a picture-cleaner. He found some new and valuable friends in Mr. Evans, his medical adviser, Mr. Purton of Hampstead, and Mr. George Constable of Arundel (a namesake but no relation), and he seems to have found also a new source of inspiration in the scenery round Arundel. He wrote to Mr. G. Constable : 'I have never seen such scenery as your country affords ; I prefer it to any other for my pictures.' He was enga^d on a picture of 'Arundel Mill and Castle,' which he meant to be his best work, when he died. In these later years (1830-7), marked by numerous fine pictures besides those already mentioned, e.g. 'The Mound of the City of Old Sarum ' (1834^ and 'The Cenotaph to the memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds at Coleorton' (1836), he was also much interested in a series of twenty mezzotint engravings from his works by David Lucas, which were brought out in five parts and published in 1833 with the following title : 'Various subjects of Landscane characteristic of English Scenery, principally intended to display the Phenomena of the Chiaroscuro of Nature from Pictures by John Constable, R.A., engraved by David Lucas.' In the preface Constable describes the aims of his art and speaks of the 'rich and feeling manner 'in which Lucas had engraved his work. This praise was well deserved. Seldom has a painter found so sympathetic an interpreter as Constable in David Lucas. The wonc did not sell, however, and the plates were used to illustrate the first edition of Leslie's life of the artist. Besides this series there was another called 'English Landscape,' which contained fifteen plates, and both series were included with some others (fortr in all) in a volume published by H. 0. Bohn in 1865, called 'English Landscape Scenery.' Lucas's large plates after Constable, such as 'The Lock,' 'The Cornfield,' 'Dedham Vale,' 'The Young Waltonians,' and 'Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows,' are masterpieces of the art of mezzotint applied to landscape. His pleasure in his art and in his children, to whom he was a devoted father, never seems to have failed, but the health of his eldest son John gave him anxiety, and his own was not good, he had at least two serious illnesses before his last, and he suffered much from depression. He wrote in 1834 that his life and occupation were useless, but to the end he fillea it with work and duty. In 1836 he delivered some lectures on 'Landscape Art' at the Royal Institution, and he had previously in 1833 given one or two at Hampstead. The notes of these, preserved at the end of Leslie's 'Life,' arc full of good sense and fine observation. His death was sudden. On 30 March 1837 he walked home from a meeting of the Royal Academy with Leslie, and next day he worked at his picture of 'Arundel Mill and Castle,' and in the evening went out on a charitable errand in connection with the Artists' Benevolent Association, of which he was president. In the night he was taken ill and died. A post-mortem examination was held, but it practically left the cause of death undecidea, for it revealed no traces of disease except indigestion. He was buried at Hampstead in the same grave with his wife.

After his death a few friends bought his 'Cornfield' from his executors and presented it to the National Gallery, which now possesses three of his finest and largest works — 'The Cornfield,' 'The Valley Farm,' and 'The Hay Wain.' At the South Kensington Museum are eight pictures, six of them left by Mr. Sheepshanks. They include the 'Salisbury Cathedral' of 1823 already mentioned, 'Dedham Mill,' two views of 'Hampstead Heath' (one, No. 36, painted 1827, remarkable for its beauty), 'Boat-building,' and 'Water Meadows near Salisbury,' of singular delicacy and freshness. At South Kensington are also some studies from the nude ana a drawing of Stoke, and in the British Museum are one or two water-colour drawings and pencil sketches, including a beautiful sketch (in colour) of a waterfall. Though Constable never attained the same skill in water-colour as in oils, his sketches in this medium are always powerful and direct records of impressions, executed with extraordinary promptness and success.

So much has been said about his art in the course of this notice that it is unnecessary to add much more, and his character was so