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Lead book review

Watcher of the skies: John Constable, painter and meteorologist

Philip Hensher describes how John Constable’s energy and imagination freed British art from the constraints of the past

12 February 2022

9:00 AM

12 February 2022

9:00 AM

Constable: A Portrait James Hamilton

Weidenfeld & Nicolson, pp.496, 20

A surprising amount of classic painting turns out to have specific, often literary meaning, even in genres which tend to strike us as innocent observations of reality. Dutch flower paintings, for instance, might be celebrations of wealth or contemplations of mortality; still lifes were seldom just renderings of a few bits of fruit and vegetables lying around on the kitchen table; and landscapes were hardly ever merely depictions of handsome tracts of land, whether by Rembrandt or Richard Wilson.

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