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I paesaggi come scienza

Landscapes as a science




John Constable is considered to be the greatest landscape painter of English Romanticism.

Born in 1776 he did not deviate much from the place where he was born and constantly devoted himself, with varying economic fortunes, to painting landscapes.

Since landscape was a widely used subject and there were many paintings with countryside scenes, why would Constable have gone a step further?


He went from idealized landscapes, designed and built, then to paintings in which the landscape was the idealization of what was seen, to the continuous technical tension in portraying what exactly was seen.


There is a technical element that unites Constable and his contemporary Turner, albeit on different levels and different purposes: Constable applies the color directly to the canvas, he does not draw.


Why never?

To be faster in realizing the conditions and the landscape of that moment. Constable decided to record in notes or directly behind the sketches the various observations of the phenomena and, like a century later Claude Monet, he resumed the same scene at different times and days.


A kind of scientist, who used painting as a scientific investigation and refined his techniques, always with the aim of representing as faithfully as possible what was before his eyes.


One of its declared intentions was to "capture the chiaroscuro of nature".

Chiaroscuro is the technique that allows you to give depth and volume to a solid object, using the same color tint, but changing its brightness. If we have to paint a red cylinder we will therefore always have the red color, but in darker or lighter tones, adding white or black to simulate the physicality of the cylinder.


In nature it is not that simple because there are no surfaces of the same color, but there are a thousand shades. Here is Constable's task: to render the depth of the things of nature as if it were a chiaroscuro.


Also for this reason one of the main reasons of John Constable were the clouds and the sky, to which he dedicated many paintings.


Not a photographic copy, therefore, but a contact with nature to try to grasp its secret.

Mission impossible?


Very likely.

But we are left with the results: landscapes that give us much more than the simple pictorial description of a place, but which come close to what we define as “soul”.


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