Saturday, May 18, 2019

A shower has not long passed

In a recent clear-out my mother passed on to me this 1950 publication on Constable.  At first I took it to be an exhibition catalogue but it is actually a short booklet concerning the V&A's superb collection of Constables, based on a gift made by the artist's daughter in 1888.  There are thirty-three black and white reproductions - I've included one of the paintings featured below.  The book cost one shilling and a note in the back says that copies 'may be had from the Victoria and Albert Museum bookstall and from H.M. Stationery Office...'  I've always read this as 'Her Majesty's' but of course in 1950 it would have been His Majesty's Stationery Office.  In the United States of America it could be obtained 'from the British Information Services, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York.'  The publication is 'Small Picture Book No. 23' - a quick search online reveals other V&A titles in this series covering, for example Adam Silver (no. 35), English Chintz (No. 22), Toys (No. 63), English Prehistoric Pottery (No. 28) and Glass Table-Ware (No. 1).

John Constable, Study for The Leaping Horse, c. 1825

The paintings in the book are preceded by a wonderful series of quotes, many of which will be very familiar to those with an interest in Constable (some have been used on this blog in the past). Here are ten of them

  • "The landscape painter must walk in the fields with an humble mind. No arrogant man was ever permitted to see nature in her beauty."
  • "The world is wide; no two days are alike, nor even two hours; neither were there ever two leaves of a tree alike since the creation of the world; and the genuine productions of art, like those of nature, are all distinct from each other.'
  • "Light - dews - breezes - bloom - and freshness; not one of which has yet been perfected on the canvas of any painter in the world."
  • "I never did admire the Autumnal tints, even in nature, so little of a painter am I in the eye of commonplace connoisseurship.  I love the exhilarating freshness of Spring." 
  • "The landscape of Gainsborough is soothing, tender and affecting. The stillness of noon, the depths of twilight, and the dews and pearls of the morning are all to be found on the canvases of this most benevolent and kind-hearted man.  On looking at them, we find tears in our eyes, and know not what brings them."

 J. M. W. Turner, The Bay of Baiae, with Apollo and the Sibyl, 1823
  • "Turner is stark mad with ability.  The picture (the Bay of Baiae) seems painted with saffron and indigo." 
  • "Brightness was the characteristic excellence of Claude; brightness, independent on colour, for what colour is there here?" (holding up a glass of water).
  • "What were the habits of Claude and the Poussins? Though surrounded with palaces filled with pictures, they made the fields their chief places of study."
  •  "... some 'high-minded' members [of the Royal Academy] who stickel for the 'elevated and noble' walks of art - i.e. preferring the shaggy posteriors of a Satyr to the moral feeling of Landscape."
  • "I have seen an affecting picture this morning by Ruysdael; it haunts my mind and clings to my heart, and stands between you and me while I am talking to you; it is a water-mill; a man and boy are cutting rushes in the running stream (the tail-water); the whole so true, clean, and fresh, and as brisk as champagne; a shower has not long passed."

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