The landscape of Britain and western Europe is exposed to unpredictable weather because the whole region is a climatic battleground between the Atlantic and the continental interior of Russia. As a result, our view of the landscape is constantly changing as the atmospheric drama of the sky above alters light and "feeling". To John Constable the sky was "the keynote", the "standard of scale" and the "chief organ of sentiment" in landscape painting. This is why sky plays such an important part in Constable's pictures including those most famous representations of British landscape, such as The Hay Wain
. The questions that John E. Thornes answers in John Constable's Skies
include "How much meteorology did Constable understand?" and "Can Constable be considered as the greatest sky painter of all time?"
Compared with our grandparents, most of our lives today tend to be protected from exposure to weather and we are constantly surprised when it changes. We have lost the art and science of checking the sky for signals of its rapid mood swings. Anyone who has attempted to paint landscapes, farm the land or go fishing, would be immediately reminded by the sumptuous reproductions in this book of Constable's remarkable skill at depicting our fickle weather.
John E. Thornes is a professional academic meteorologist and explains in "userfriendly" language the science that we need to know in order to understand and appreciate the truth of Constable's skies. Although the book is rather academic in tone and presentation with appendices and notes, the writing is accessible to anyone interested in this fascinating interface between art and science, especially one that is so beautifully illustrated with so many (125) high quality colour reproductions. --Douglas Palmer
From the Publisher
John Constable is arguably the most accomplished painter of English skies and weather of all time. 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, analyses Constable's own meteorological understanding, examines the development of his painted skies, and compares his skies to those produced by other artists from the middle ages to the nineteenth century.