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Bringing alive nature on canvas

    B.Kotaiah
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Turner and Constable are familiar names in the field of nature painting. No major world art museum considers its landscape collection complete without showcasing a picture or two of Turner and Constable. Salar Jung Museum is proud to present one brilliant water colour of Turner and two well-executed oil sketches by Constable.

Turner and Constable are valued not only for their glorious nature pictures but also for their contributions to the international art movements. While Turner’s free manner of painting, use of light and colour, inspired French impressionists, Constable’s method of painting in colours sun-kissed scenes direct from nature resulted in impressionism, “one of the most richest outburst of human creativeness in the history of art.”

Turner’s ‘Geneva Lake’ shows the famous Swiss water-spread brooded by blue mountains and filled with picnickers and cattle. The water colour picture is not an exact transcript of the well-known lake. It is coloured by the artist’s imagination. And therein lies Turner’s art: Turner painted the effects, not the facts of the scenes.

What he saw in nature he stored in his mind, reshaped and painted, colouring the scene with his own imagination. And what he saw and painted ran to 25,000 works – oils, water colours, etchings and drawings!

J.M.W. Turner was born in London in 1775. His father was a hairdresser; his mother died insane.

He had little education: “nature was his school” (Lewis Hind). At 14, he entered Royal Academy School where no less a great painter than Sir Joshua Reynolds taught him oil painting. Girtin, a brilliant painter, helped Turner in evolving a style of water colour painting. A visit to Switzerland, Germany, and Italy, the last, ‘a land of bliss’, made him a visionary, an idealist and a lover of light and colour.

The consequence was a flood of paintings which “took England out of dark brown period into white, revolutionizing not only landscape but portraiture.” He died at the age of 76 in 1851.

One of the two Constable’s oil sketches kept in the museum, the picture represents a cool, sloping tree land with a hut embowered in the trees. The clouds are treated broadly to indicate their slow motion. The foliage is rendered in blobs of green.

The trees are indicated with single dabs of paint.

The typical English landscape – “Vivid greens of the spring meadows, natural freshness and changeable wet English atmosphere” – was what Constable expressed in his pictures.

To paint the landscape he used to set his easel in the fields and captured the scenes in the blobs of colour with palette knife, the first 19th century artist to do so.

Son of a miller, born in a village in 1776, John Constable painted for 14 years before he sold his pictures professionally.

It took him full ten years to win the membership in the Royal Academy of Arts.

By the time the honour came there were none to celebrate except himself – his father, mother and wife having died. He died in 1837.

Englishman John Constable might have gone unknown to his grave had not a French art dealer exhibited his work at the French Salon of 1824. There his naturalism became an instant success.

The French government tried unsuccessfully to buy his famous painting ‘Haywein’. The King of France awarded him a gold medal.

B.Kotaiah,

Dep.Keeper (Retd),

Salar Jung Museum

Turner and Constable are familiar names in the field of nature painting and no major world art museum considers its landscape collection complete without showcasing a picture or two of theirs

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