You can see the paintings by two of the most prominent 19th century British painters – John Constable and William Turner.
CONSTABLE’S LANDSCAPES IN VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM
John Constable was an English romantic landscape painter. While I’m not going to write about his life and work, I’ll just mention that his paintings are among the most popular and valuable in British art now.
He was fond of the panoramic views, visible in every direction from Hampstead. The painting in the photo below depicts the view from above the Vale of Health pond, looking towards the neighbouring village of Highgate.
Constable painted several versions of the painting below, based on an oil sketch. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1828.
One of his few commissioned works, the painting below was for his friend Dr John Fisher, Bishop of Salisbury.
You can see the Bishop and his daughter in the lower left corner, observing the cathedral. The tree branches that frame the cathedral resemble its gothic arches and suggest a symbolic interpretation unusual in Constable’s landscapes.
Constable often made full scale studies for his large exhibition paintings. Broadly painted, they established the general balance of the composition and its colours.
The study below is for his most famous work, it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1821.
The painting below portrays the construction of a barge at a dry dock owned by his father. Constable painted the landscape entirely in the open air.
The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1815.
In the painting below, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1822, you can see the spire of the Hampstead parish church at the bottom left.
Constable and his wife were buried in the graveyard there.
While the composition below is a full-scale study, the finished painting is in the Royal Academy.
On the right, a barge-horse jumps a barrier across the tow path, a feat for which they specially trained these horses.
TURNER’S MARINE PAINTINGS
William Turner is another great British 19th century romantic painter of picturesque landscapes and dramatic marine paintings.
You can see below one of two paintings of the Royal Yacht Club races at the Isle of Wight. Turner painted them for the architect John Nash, who lived in East Cowes Castle, that you can see in the background.
This painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1828.
The painting below, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1835, shows fishermen using a baited line in the English Channel. Described as a “beautiful marine piece”, it is probably a pair with the next painting.
The island of St Michael’s Mount is a site of a medieval monastery. A causeway at low tide links its harbour with the mainland.
The painting evolved from sketches made in 1811. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1834.
Turner experimented with light and colour, contrasting the luminous depiction of the church Santa Maria della Salute with the muddy water. The painting received mixed reviews at the Royal Exhibition in 1840.
It was the support of collectors like John Sheepshanks that allowed Turner to continue exploring landscape painting in a radically different manner from his contemporaries.
JAMES WARD’S REJECTED PAINTING
James Ward was the 19th century British painter that specialised in animal painting. His work below is based on a landscape by Rubens.
The president of the Royal Academy considered that its perfection of execution made Rubens seem gross and vulgar.
However, it was rejected from the Royal Academy in 1804.
The collection of landscapes in Victoria and Albert Museum is actually just one room. But as you can see in this post, it contains some very beautiful paintings by two of the most famous British 19th century painters.