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English painter John Constable's greatness, like all major artists, stems from an ability and insight allowing him to make the most profound spiritual and creative statements from the material of everyday existence which most people ignore or thoughtlessly accept as mere matters of routine.
He also combines the density and materiality of nature through solidly painted and constructed forms with a search of sweeping skies for spiritual fulfillment and transcendence. Constable paints skies not only to record conditions of light and weather but as a statement and exploration of the unearthly and his desire for it.
Humanity in his landscapes is but a minute, peripheral element, perhaps seen in true proportion to the immensity of earth and cosmos, as trees, swales, fields, hills and distant yet emotionally and symbolically significant architectural landmarks and towers map out the progression of Constable's artistic development and spiritual quest.
To Constable, mankind, when present in his pictures, must labor by the sweat of their brow until going to their reward. While close to nature, involved in elemental truths of an agrarian existence, the artist's people generally seem unconscious of the natural paradise about them, caught up as they are in the mundane practices of life. Does this accurate observation of humanity's lack of imagination point to the cause of, and underscore, the inevitable isolation of the profound artist, one reason why Constable turns to the God-containing sky for ultimate fulfillment?
There is a lot of Cezanne in Constable, and vice-versa, in the sense of solid, enduring form and the embuing of landscape with allegorical significance. As Cezanne (more of a romantic than many give him credit for), Claude Lorrain and others used the device of openings through foreground trees...