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Born in 1776, John Constable was destined for his father's milling business, but he was obdurately opposed to this and persuaded his family he should become an artist. In the same determined spirit, he persisted in painting landscapes at a time when history paintings and portraits were the fashion. Today, Constable's reputation is on the rise once again, as witnessed by the exhibitions of his most famous paintings at the Tate, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and the Huntington Gallery in California. Anthony Bailey's important book explores Constable's life and work, highlighting throughout the dramatic tension between the two.
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Anthony Bailey has won high praise for his books about artists: two idiosyncratic studies of Rembrandt, a much-admired biography of Turner, and his masterpiece about Vermeer.From Publishers Weekly:
Romantic painter John Constable (1776–1837) struggled for years to enter the Royal Academy, was constantly torn between the demands of family and artistic life and had a tortuous path to the limited success he did achieve in his lifetime. Bailey (Vermeer: A View of Delft), a longtime New Yorker contributor and prolific author, seeks to expose both the chiaro and scuro in the painter's life and work—a perspective, argues Bailey, left largely unrealized in the only other full-length biography of Constable, Charles Leslie's 1843 Memoirs of the Life of John Constable. The result is an intricate, intimate, balanced study, revealing the artist's moody, depressive, acerbic and often parsimonious nature along with his intense devotion to his wife, Mary Bicknell (whom he met when she was 12, he 24) and their seven children. Bailey's meticulous scholarship at times overwhelms with detail disproportionate to its larger relevance, and interesting issues, such as contemporary criticism of Constable, invite further analysis. Bailey writes with the elegant, carefully composed quietude of a Constable painting, and has crafted a sensitive and highly comprehensive portrait that will be essential for Constable scholars and very significant to general readers with an interest in the artist and his period. Color and b&w illus., maps. (Feb. 1)
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