Landscape - what is it?


This month, John Constable is in the spotlight. He is famous for his landscapes inspired by his homeland.

Landscape is a genre of subject in Western Art. Until the 17th century artists did not appreciate nature for its own sake. It was just a background of portraits, historical, mythological or religious paintings. During the 18th century landscape painting became very popular.

Images from the slideshow at

The nineteenth century saw a remarkable explosion of naturalistic landscape painting. Britain produced two outstanding contributors to this phenomenon in John Constable and J.M.W. Turner. In the hands of the Impressionists, landscape painting became the vehicle for a revolution in Western painting (modern art) and the traditional hierarchy of the genres collapsed.

Constable: The Hay wain, 1821

John Constable is the featured artist in June. He was born at East Bergholt, Suffolk, the son of a corn and coal merchant and farmer. He devoted much of his life to painting the local landscape, the scenes of his 'careless boyhood' which, he said, 'made me a painter'. 

Constable: Wivenhoe Park, Essex, 1816

From the very beginning of his career, Constable's aim was clear: not to copy the work of the old masters (although he admired and learned from their work), but to approach nature itself with a fresh eye and an open mind. He wrote, 'Willows, old rotten planks, slimy posts, and brickwork, I love such things'.

Constable: The White Horse, 1819