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Branch Hill Pond, Hampstead

Branch Hill Pond, Hampstead

1828

John Constable

(British, 1776-1837)

Oil on canvas

Framed: 89 x 105.5 x 11.5 cm (35 1/16 x 41 9/16 x 4 1/2 in.); Unframed: 60.6 x 78.1 cm (23 7/8 x 30 3/4 in.)

Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 1972.48

Description

From 1819 to 1826, Constable rented a summer house at Hampstead, a quarrying district on the northern outskirts of London, where he made drawings, oil sketches, and paintings of the surrounding landscape. In this painting, the atmosphere plays a dominant role. The artist meticulously observed and recorded cloud formations, weather conditions, and natural light effects; he believed an accurate rendering of these constantly shifting elements could transmit the vitality and freshness that was so important to his vision of the English countryside. Constable's insistently overcast skies, with rain or the promise of rain, were distinctly British, and his treatment of them is how he distanced himself from the more temperate Italianate landscapes, seen in the golden glow of sky in paintings by Richard Wilson, Thomas Gainsborough, and John Martin that many still considered the ideal of natural beauty.

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