"Constable is Constable" was the verdict of one of John Constable's contemporary critics - a succinctly phrased testimony to the fame and the notoriety which the artist achieved during his lifetime. Praised by the reviewers for his original and vigorous naturalism, Constable was simultaneously criticized for his unorthodox means of producing it. This fundamental ambivalence, which granted him fame without popularity, esteem without proper patronage, provides the context for the frustration and sense of personal failure that plagued Constable throughout his career. The opinions documented in this volume represent the earliest stage of a critical heritage which has cast Constable in so many different guises, ranging from the "innocent eye" who painted only what he saw, to the anti-Jacobin manipulator who painted what he wished to be seen - opinions which may only be reconciled by a re-examination of Constable and critical opinion.
A case study of one artist's critical reception, this book also illuminates the wider issue of the influence of the rapidly expanding periodical press of the early 19th century, with particular reference to the popularization of art among the mass reading public.