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The paintings of John Constable are as English as village green cricket, warm beer and thatched baseball caps. John was born at East Bergholt in the idyllic Stour Valley and spent his boyhood wandering the fields of Suffolk being utterly entranced by the unspoiled landscape. Having helped his dad at his flour mill for a while, he dusted himself down and went off to the Royal Academy to learn arty stuff like which end to hold his paintbrush and how it's better to take the top off the tube before you squeeze the pigment, after which he began his life's work of evoking the English countryside.
Unlike his predecessors, who preferred to work in the comfort of their studios, John was one of the first champions of outdoor painting (and thermal underwear) and would often spend hours trying to capture the magical effect of sun on clouds, reflections on water, or just waiting for some cow to get up off his palette. The lost world that 'Constables' evoke is one of rural domesticity, stability and tranquility, as is evidenced by the case of Willy Lott, the inhabitant of the much painted and photographed 'Willy Lott's Cottage', who is said to have never travelled further than three miles from his home (although John did once tell him that he 'ought to get out more').
One of John's best known paintings is 'The Hay Wain' ( or 'The Traffic Jam', as it was known in those days ) and Constable fans still flock to Dedham Mill in their thousands in the hope of meeting the descendants of Wain, the cart driver, or accidentally chancing upon John's legendary oil sketch of the East Bergholt Happy Eater. All of John's five children became painters and some pictures, previously thought to be his work, have since turned out to be by his son Lionel (who helped him out when he had a big order on).
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