Truth and/or Reality

There are some artworks I’ve tried to take in which just don’t seem to make sense to me. Many of these are from the Romantic period and John Constable is a good example of one. It’s not clear why they seem so dead to me, but I would think it has something to do with the fact that similar scenes, sometimes called chocolate box art, are toned down and relatively neutral to the eye.

Source: Wikipedia

Dedham Vale 1802
Perhaps it’s the MTV-reared kid in me that wants entertainment instead of refinement, or the thrill-seeking intellectual daredevil I like to picture myself as in my daydreams, or an eye used to photographic detail, but despite their status as masterpieces, they do not do much for me.

Source: Wikipedia

The Hay Wain 1821
The French became huge fans of his work and he provided inspiration for Géricault and Delacroix, two Romantic painters whose stuff I absolutely love. Why, then, is this British master so bland to my tastes? Maybe there is a psychological reason to all this and I’m trying to force myself to like these landscapes like I tried to force myself to like cauliflower, or believe in God, because my parents-cum-superego told me that’s the proper thing to do. Thing is, I never put much weight on Freud either.

Source: Wikipedia

Brighton Beach with Colliers 1824
In short, I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at Constables, trying to figure out what their point is. I’ve done this more than with some paintings I actually like. Compared to other English Romantic landscape painters like Turner, he still seems boring. Turner’s paintings, even his landscapes, are filled with action and strange colors and various weird effects and points of focus which make them exciting. In comparison, Constable is stiff and starched, very much unexciting. Why is he considered one of the greats? I have no idea, but it supposedly has something to do with truth and reality. Maybe that’s what gets in the way.

2 Responses to “Truth and/or Reality”


  1. 1 broadsideblog February 4, 2012 at 15:01

    I love Turner.

    One of the things we forget (which I was taught in a class while studying antiques) is that (inevitably) we look at everything from the past with contemporary eyes…i.e. maybe these works spoke much more powerfully to a pre-industrial gaze?

  2. 2 nonvisedvoce February 4, 2012 at 15:27

    That makes sense. It’s actually something that was on my mind last week when I had a chance to look at some Van Gogh’s. He seems to have had a strong sense of nostalgia for this kind of stuff, probably through his admiration of French art.


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