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John Constable
English, 1776-1837

Stoke-by-Nayland, 1836

Oil on canvas
49 5/8 x 66 1/2 in. (126 x 169 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Kimball Collection, 1922.4453

Stoke-by-Nayland depicts the subject matter that the landscape painter John Constable explored throughout his life: the Suffolk countryside of his youth. Constable based his landscapes on countless studies and sketches that he often took back to his London studio to expand and then finish. Of Stoke-by-Nayland, he wrote to a friend: "What say you to a summer morning? July or August, at eight or nine o’clock, after a slight shower during the night." To achieve the effect of sparkling wetness and a freshness of earth and air, Constable painted as much with a palette knife as with a brush, flecking the surface with white highlights and sketching and scraping the picture into existence. The deliberate ruggedness of his style echoes nature’s rough spontaneity. The unpolished execution is reminiscent of the full-scale sketches in oil that Constable made for earlier exhibition paintings; however, no more fully treated version is known, and the rich color suggests that this is a finished work, done in the artist’s late style. Constable’s emphasis on surface brushwork and texture in his effort to record the constantly shifting effects of natural light on land and sky exerted enormous influence on French artists like Eugéne Delacroix and a younger generation of French painters, the Impressionists.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2009, p. 210.