'The face of the World is totally changed to me', wrote Constable after the death of his wife, Maria, mother to their seven children, from tuberculosis in 1828. Over the following years his work changed dramatically and he began to produce more abstracted paintings, with an increasingly textured surface, using a palette knife to apply the paint. Critics responded damningly and light-hearted ridicule of Constable’s work was commonplace and continued into the 1830s. Between 1830 and 1832, in an attempt to counter negative press, Constable published a set of mezzotint engravings of ‘English Landscapes’, which were accompanied by explanatory texts and engraved by David Lucas. The volume stated that the subjects were ‘taken from real places; they are mostly rural, and are meant particularly to characterise the scenery of England.’ When the publication failed to be a success, Constable wrote to a friend: 'every gleam of sunshine is blighted to me in the art at least. Can it therefore be wondered at that I paint continual storms?'
Born at East Bergholt in Suffolk, John Constable was the son of a miller. He claimed that the Suffolk countryside which surrounded him as a child ‘made him a painter’. In 1806, he visited the Lake District and in 1827 settled in Hampstead. Constable’s paintings ‘The Hay Wain’ and ‘View on the Stour’ were awarded the Gold Medal at the Paris Salon in 1824. The great success of these and other works exhibited in France had a significant effect on the development of the Barbizon School of landscape painters and works of the Romantic Movement. After Constable’s sudden death in 1837, a large collection of his work was bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum by his daughter.
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