Great Landscapes: Stoke by Nayland in excelsis

John Constable Stoke by Nayland, 1811, The Tate
John Constable: Stoke by Nayland, 1811, The Tate

When you consider that Constable has an unfortunate link with chocolate box pictures and tricky jigsaws , it’s pretty extraordinary to see a landscape like this. A Post-impressionist masterpiece, 100 years before Post-impressionism. He did at least three other paintings of the same subject, which are all very pleasing to the eye, but also relatively  conventional, though you can trace the development in style when you compare this:

...another Stoke by Nayland
…another Stoke by Nayland (Art Institute of Chicago)

with this:

...and another
…and another (Victoria and Albert)

Except, surprisingly, the first of the two is the latest (1836). The second is 1830. Constable’s primitive and dramatic style, which looks very modern, predates the more conventional pictures, although you can trace the transition in style quite nicely. And then there’s the fourth version, also 1811, and similarly primitive, but with  flicker of more sophistication:

...the last one, honest (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
…the last one, honest (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

They’re all good, but the top one, the earliest, is in my opinion,  the masterpiece.

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