Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Constable Who are you?

Meeting up with people you first 'get to know' via their blogs is invariably a joy and often the friendship, built on shared interests, grows beyond the occasional comments on each other's blogs. Yesterday I went to London to meet up with Gina and Frances, our meeting place was the entrance hall of the V&A.

We were there to see . . . 

Constable: the making of a master

Seascape study with rain cloud by John Constable (1824)

The exhibition looks at the influences on Constable's work, how he studied the work of the 'masters', such as Claude, Ruisdale, Rembrandt, Rubens and Gainsbrough. The original paintings and Constable's copies are hung side by side and a collection of engraved prints reproducing 'old master' paintings that Constable owned and hung on his bedroom walls, has been recreated.

Most telling of all are the many small scale sketches from observation of the landscape, skies and nature. Constable read books on the theory of painting and art and drawing from observation and made meticulous notes and pencil sketches in tiny sketchbooks.

He learned by observing how others had worked but above all he learned from looking at the natural world around him.

The exhibition reveals glimpses of the man behind the too-familiar set piece paintings. Sensitive, serious, hard-working, under pressure to deliver great work, torn between town and country, working hard to make a living.

It is a thoroughly inspiring exhibition.

After that we were in need of a sit down and lunch . . . and a natter. And as bloggers that make stuff do, we exchanged gifts . . . 

Corsage by Gina and tiny Christmas Sweater by Frances

Who Are You?

After saying farewell to Gina and before I headed home, Frances and I decided to go to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Grayson Perry exhibition 'Who Are You?'. I'd already been to see it with Su but it's so good I was more than happy to go again. If you haven't seen the TV series which looks at the subjects of the portraits, I recommend you have a look . . . it is moving and insightful. The thought and care Grayson Perry puts into his work is evident in all the pieces in the exhibition . . . he works very hard.

A lovely moment was watching a 'white middle-aged middle-class man' rush in from the next gallery to find his friends and like an excited child, announce "I now GET Grayson Perry!". Priceless! There are not many exhibitions that can make that happen.

It was such a good day spent with two lovely friends and gave me lots to think about on the way home . . .

. . . my musings on a train . . .

Constable is often described as a 'self-taught' . . . and sometimes I feel art historians/critics use the phrase in a derogatory way. 


I suppose it means someone who didn't have a formal art education, but Constable studied at the Royal Academy . . . I know he was a little older than the other students when he eventually studied painting full time, but don't most art students do lots of work and glean knowledge however and wherever they can before embarking on full time art education. And don't artists continue to teach themselves by looking and reading and practicing, throughout their lives.

And finally . . .

I bought myself a treat from the V&A shop, a lovely watercolour set made up of stacking circles with a palette lid. Inspired by Constable's colour sketches I'm looking forward to using these to paint some Suffolk landscapes.



  1. Ooh, I so wish that I could see those exhibitions. I thoroughly enjoyed the Grayson Perry programmes on TV and thought how sensitive he was to the people he portrayed. I think he must be a lovely person.

    I am looking forward to seeing your watercolour sketches/paintings. Someone else bought a similar set but I can't recall who it was...

  2. Thank you for a small wander around places I don't think I will ever get back to, Oz is so far away but blog posts like yours give me such pleasure. The little paint sets are wonderful, I have had one for ages and are great travel sets.

  3. The constable exhibition looks really good and I'm glad you had such a lovely day. I think the Grayson Perry exhibition could be visited many times and you'd see something new each time, I'm glad that man finally 'got it'!

  4. You make me quite jealous!
    The Constable must be an astounding show. I know Frances was really looking forward to seeing it with you.
    The National Portrait Gallery show sounds excellent too!

  5. That sounds like an enviably splendid outing in London. It makes me wish I were closer to my old homeland. Also makes me think I should pull myself together, "love the one your with" and go see the current show on at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

  6. Oh Celia, what a fabulous day we had! I know that being able to see the Constable exhibit with you and Gina really added to my appreciation of all that I saw. And the GP show will resonate with me for a long time. I'm still wondering when I am going to find time to take a look at those tv programs. I will manage it...and will let you have me comments. Promise.

    Now. Having another peek at that cylindrical stack of watercolor paints made me regret not getting one myself from the V&A. Happy news though...they are available at a favorite NYC art supply shop, as are all I will need to some day stage my return to rubber stamp carving.

    How you inspire me! xo

  7. It was such a lovely day and I regret not being able to stay to see the Grayson Perry exhibition too. Wonderful to see the Constable exhibition through the eyes of both of you though.


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