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How much real delight I have had with the study of Landscape this summer. Either I am myself improved in “the art of seeing Nature” … or Nature has unveiled her beauties to me with a less fastidious hand.
John Constable, 22 July 1812
Constable’s sketches are the most spontaneous and innovative of his works. He knew the value of these studies and rarely parted with them, saying that ‘he had no objection to part with the corn, but not with the field that grew it’.
Constable was able to convey the effervescent sensations of light and atmosphere in his exhibition paintings because of the many detailed observations he had made outdoors in pencil drawings and oil sketches.
A good number of British artists had made oil sketches outdoors from nature before Constable, but these artists generally only conceived of their sketches as raw material gathered in the field, to be transformed into pictures that had little relation to their fieldwork. Constable’s sketches are more experimental, his sketching style is more diverse, and there is greater continuity between his sketches and his exhibition pieces. Although naturalistic oil sketches became popular in Britain around 1810, Constable alone made sketching central to his painting.
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