Constable Paintings

As part of my last assignment feedback, it was recommended that I built on my research for the module. I regularly look at other photographers work, on image sharing sites like Flickr and in magazines, but I’ve never really made much of an effort to appreciate other forms of images.

For this post, I decided I’d try looking at a couple of paintings to see if I could start to identify techniques that I have learned on this course so far and consider how the painting made me feel. As landscapes are a particular part of photography I’d like to develop, I decided I’d search for well known landscape painters. When the search brought up Constable, I thought it would be a great opportunity to look at images from a painter that I’ve heard the name of but really knew nothing about.

Stonehenge, 1835
Stonehenge, 1835

The painting depicts the circular temple of stonehenge, crumbling and in a remote landscape. The lighting of the ground is quite dark around the edges with the main sources of light striking the inner parts of the structure the most.

The sky has been painted in a dramatic form showing stormy clouds and also appearing to try and show movement. Again, the lighting is quite dark with only a minimal amount of white being used to show the clouds.

Finally, there appear to be two very subtle figures in the image. The most noticeable appears to be sat on one of the fallen pieces of stone, looking downwards, and the other is a tiny silhouette in the distance.

The muted colours and mostly subdued lighting of this image seem to be the key in creating, and possibly emphasising, it’s mystic atmosphere. Being such an ancient structure, there is a lot of speculation about its purpose. As well as the lighting and composition focusing attention to the centre, an interesting choice was made to add further emphasis with the movement in the clouds.

Within the picture, the aspect I find most intriguing is the inclusion of the two figures. Looking at the image in order to describe it, I focused on the structure itself, the surrounding landscape and the sky and I was very close to not seeing the figures at all. Having spotted the figures, it leaves me with unanswered questions that significantly increases my interest in the painting. The questions I have are:

  • Are the figures there simply to provide scale? Having visited Stonehenge, I’m aware of is size and scale but for someone that hasn’t seen it, there are no other reference points in the image.
  • Is the figure in the foreground sitting and contemplating? Visiting a structure like this is a very thought provoking experience.
  • Why is the figure in the background shown as a silhouette and featureless?

Study-of-Cumulus-Clouds
Study of Cumulus Clouds, 1822

As the title suggests, this is a painting of Cumulus Clouds. There are contrasting colour that transition on the diagonal with the clouds spreading across the image on the thirds just off the horizontal.

The colours of the image imply that it has been taken during one of the golden hours as the sun is either raising or setting.

Overrall, the painting feels to be calming, pleasant and minimalistic. When I first looked at the image, my first thought was “why?”. There seemed to be so little to the image that initially I thought it must have been painted as a practice piece. However, spending a bit longer looking at it, I wonder if the intention was to simply capture this time of day. It makes me start to think about being stood in a field and looking to the sky, watching the rapid change as the sun moves.

Conclusion

Having a brief look at these two images has been an interesting experience. Being able to look at paintings, pick out compositional technique and consider how things such as light and colour might be used intentionally by an artist to convey ideas or intentions shows that my appreciation of art, not just photography, is beginning to develop.

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