John Constable's Skies: A Fusion of Art and Science
John Constable is arguably the most accomplished painter of English skies and weather of all time. For Constable, the sky was the keynote, the standard of scale and the chief organ of sentiment in a landscape painting. But how far did he understand the workings of the forces of nature which created his favourite cumulus clouds, portrayed in so many of his skies over the landscapes of Hampstead Heath, Salisbury and Suffolk? And were the skies he painted scientifically accurate? In this lucid and accessible study, John Thornes provides a meteorological framework for reading the skies of landscape art, compares Constable's skies to those produced by other artists from the middle ages to the nineteenth century, analyses Constable's own meteorological understanding, and examines the development of his painted skies. In so doing he provides fresh evidence to identify the year of painting of some of Constable's previously undated cloud studies.
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For anyone who enjoys clouds and skies, who appreciates the qualities to be found in English landscapes, and in fine landscape painting, this is a book to be sought and treasured.
John Thornes combined scholarly research with an easy style that makes this a surprisingly quick read. An art book written by a meteorologist is a rarity, but judging by this, more geographers should contribute to the literature of landscape and place depicted in art and other media. The field sketch is a necessary skill that many a student of geography or drawing can enjoy.
Perhaps above all, living as we now do in an age that is facing the serious challenge of unseasonable weather extremes through the agents of climate change, it behoves us to take the science of weather more seriously, whilst valuing opportunities to appreciate the majesty, awe and subtlety that skies present most days, especially if we are fortunate enough either to have access to the countryside, or to have a vantage point from which to view the sky.
John Constable may be eclipsed in the public imagination and affection by Turner, but for understanding of English landscape and skyscape, Constable is unrivalled, and deserves greater accolade and recognition. A popular, concise pocket version of this book could be a welcome addition for the growing numbers of people seeking solace in natural surroundings.
John Constables meteorological understanding
Evolution of the skies in Constables art
The influence of art and science on Constables skies