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I have done a good deal of skying…That Landscape painter who does not make his skies a very material part of his composition – neglects to avail himself of one of his greatest aids …It will be difficult to name a class of Landscape, in which the sky is not the“key note”, the standard of “Scale”, and the chief “Organ of sentiment”… The sky is the “source of light” in nature – and governs every thing.
John Constable, 23 October 1821
Constable believed that depicting skies was one of the most difficult part of landscape painting and one of the most important. He thought skies should ‘sympathise’ with their subjects.
During 1821 and 1822 he made a large number of cloud studies at Hampstead, on the outskirts of London. He painted them day after day, and often several times a day, as if obsessed. He worked quickly, sketching many of them in about an hour.
Constable captured unique atmospheric effects: recording on these sketches the date, time of day, and information about the direction of the light, the wind, the temperature and humidity, as well as the weather conditions before and after he made his paintings. He was interested in movement, changing conditions, in fluctuating moments, shifting effects of light and shade.
Constable categorised clouds, but more significantly he showed the sky as being infinitely variable and as ‘the realm over which man has no control’.
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