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A day with John Constable on Hampstead Heath

The sketch sequence

We have here a series of nineteen pencil sketches of skyscapes by Constable. The sequence begins with a sketch of clear sky, and works along to progressively cloudier conditions. Each has a few brief notes about lighting and tints.

Although it is possible that these drawings were based on Alexander Cozens' 'Engravings of Skies', I speculate that these are rapidly drawn sketches of actual conditions. In 1821, Constable moved to Hampstead and that summer he painted a series of oil sketches of cloudscapes from Hampstead Heath. Each has some notes of time of day, weather conditions, and so on the back. The vague indications of a hilly horizon suggest that these pencil sketches too were drawn on Hampstead Heath. The sequence is consistent with a set of sketches taken through a single day of unstable, fairly windy conditions. Constable is particularly interested in the effects of different lighting intensity and angles, and these may well reflect views of the clouds in different directions.

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