East Bergholt, England
Constable was born in East Bergholt, Suffolk, in 1776, the son of a well-todo mill owner. An early interest in drawing was encouraged by the connoisseur Sir George Beaumont and the etcher and draftsman J. T. ("Antiquity") Smith, and in 1799 Constable traveled to London and entered the Royal Academy Schools. He exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first time in 1802 and began making regular sketching and painting trips to rural parts of central and southeastern England, developing his style of plein-air sketching. Larger, more finished compositions were worked up in the studio, and in 1819 Constable exhibited at the academy the first of his sixfoot canvases showing scenes from the Stour River valley. He was elected an associate of the academy in 1819 but not a full member until 1829. Inclusion of three paintings in the Paris Salon of 1824 brought him to the excited attention of French artists, who saw in his work a new model of fidelity to nature. In later life, the vivid naturalism of his landscapes gave way to a looser, more expressionistic style. The lectures on landscape painting he presented in his last years, from 1833 to 1836, preserve a personal account of his theories and practices. He died in London in 1837.