To read more about Charlotte Mason picture study and to see the other Picture Study Aids I have available, click here.
…in the latter reigns of the Georges, and before John Ruskin had begun to teach, the public were not prepared to receive truth in simplicity. Art was insincere, elaborate, even bombastic—as also were theology, manners and many other things; landscapes were painted, not out of doors, but in studios, and were not likely therefore to be true to nature. The critics were enraged with Constable’s works and said, “What is to become of conventional landscape painting if such pictures as these are to be admired?” Constable had committed a monstrous offense, he had told the truth in an artificial age! Let us hope that during our lives we shall have the honour of committing some such magnificent offense with equally good result, in one department of life or another.Mrs. Maxwell Y. Maxwell (The Parents’ Review Vol. 15, No. 03, 1904)
I love the quote above, and I feel it personifies John Constable well. At the beginning of his career, landscape painting was considered a “lesser” form of art compared to history or genre paintings. Despite this, he continued to pursue this “lesser” art form, and he, along with J.M.W. Turner, revolutionized the 19th-century English opinion of landscape painting. He did care about what others thought of him and his work, and he suffered periodic depression through the many long years of waiting to be admitted to the Royal Academy as a full member. Through all of this, however, he continued to “offend,” as Mrs. Maxwell puts it above, and clung to his love of landscape painting.
I also found this wonderful quote about him in John Constable: The Making of a Master by Mark Evans:
Two of the most intriguing of his surviving sketchbooks, one used from July to October 1813, the other during the same months of 1814, reveal a transformation taking place in Constable’s working method. He spent these months in East Bergholt, walking in the fields and lanes of Suffolk and Essex, and each summer he filled a tiny book with pencil drawings. The 1813 sketchbook records how Constable examined the countryside in minute detail, ‘picking up’, as he put it, ‘little scraps of trees, plants, ferns, distances &c. &c.’
What a wonderful inspiration to go out and start “picking up little scraps” for ourselves!
I read in several places that he is often dismissed because his paintings are a bit oversaturated in society – on pillows, mugs, greeting cards, sofa art prints, etc. And admittedly, I didn’t pay him much attention when studying his pieces in school as I prefer portrait and genre painting to landscapes. But after having read about his life, discovering that he was one of the first plein air artists (meaning he painted the majority of his pieces outside), and learning that his art was a kind of reaction to the industrial revolution in England gave me a greater appreciation for him and his work.
I’m happy to announce that I recently refreshed and updated the original John Constable Picture Study Aid I made in 2018, and it’s available again for download and in print form! This 29-page Picture Study Aid includes a summary of the early life of English Romantic painter John Constable, key topics about seven of his artworks (see below), and seven printable versions of the paintings (without artist names or titles) with the PDF (or professional art prints with the printed book).
The pieces covered include:
- Mary Freer (1809)
- Wivenhoe Park, Essex (1816)
- The Hay Wain (1821)
- Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Garden (1826)
- The Cornfield (1826)
- Hadleigh Castle (1829)
- Old Sarum (1834)
You can also find books for further reading about John Constable in the Living Art Book Archive.
I include a brief overview of Charlotte Mason picture study at the beginning of the file; however, I have also written posts here on the blog about why it is important and how we do it in our home and homeschool co-op.
You can get your copy at the link at the end of the post!
This guide is by no means an exhaustive analysis or study of each piece, which is intentional. I tried to keep it all very simple in the spirit of there being:
…no talk about schools of painting, little about style; consideration of these matters comes in later life, the first and most important thing is to know the pictures themselves. As in a worthy book we leave the author to tell his own tale, so do we trust a picture to tell its tale through the medium the artist gave it. In the region of art as else-where we shut out the middleman.CHARLOTTE MASON (VOL 6 PG 216)
This Picture Study Aid is meant to offer basic information about the artists as well as ready answers should your student ask about a particular aspect of a piece and the explanation isn’t readily evident. Ms. Mason emphasized not focusing on strict academic discourse when doing picture study but rather simply exposing students to the art itself:
His education should furnish him with whole galleries of mental pictures, pictures by great artists old and new;––…––in fact, every child should leave school with at least a couple of hundred pictures by great masters hanging permanently in the halls of his imagination, to say nothing of great buildings, sculpture, beauty of form and colour in things he sees. Perhaps we might secure at least a hundred lovely landscapes too,––sunsets, cloudscapes, starlight nights. At any rate he should go forth well furnished because imagination has the property of magical expansion, the more it holds the more it will hold.CHARLOTTE MASON (VOL 6 PG 43)
Thank you so much for these aids! They have really enhanced our picture study without being too much! This morning we studied Winslow Homer’s Crack the Whip, and there was a quick description of the game right there. So very helpful 🙂
Thanks for your kind comment, Claire! I’m so glad they’re helpful. 🙂 That one was fun to put together, especially when I found that game description as I had certainly never heard of it before!
Kelsi Compton says
Thank you so much for the work that you did, I am very excited to use these resources!
I am wondering what kind of documentation I need to provide to the commercial print shop in order to prove that I have permission to print these?
That’s the first time I’ve gotten this question. 🙂 There is a line on the copyright page that says it may be printed for personal use – is that sufficient or are they asking for more? All of the paintings themselves are in the public domain as the artist has been dead for more than 70 years.
Kelsi Compton says
Thanks so much! I should hope that would be sufficient!