Once Our Storm Has Passed, Bathed in Peace and Light (oil on canvas, 2017)
I first saw JMW Turner’s “The Slave Ship” at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston decades ago. It has always been one of my favorite paintings in that museum and I’ve spent countless hours standing in front of it – admiring it, studying it and just being awestruck by it. My favorite Turner paintings have always been the ones in which the forms dissolve into a dense cloud of atmosphere and light. In January 2004, I made a trip down to New Haven to see the Turner collection at the Yale Center for British Art. The Turners are on the fourth floor in the front corner. In order to get to them, one must first walk through the John Constable collection. I was only vaguely familiar with Constable’s work. (Whilst in college, I was working on a landscape painting that had clouds in it and my painting teacher suggested that I look at Constable and Jacob Van Ruisdael, which I did, but only through reproductions in books.) As I walked through the Constable collection that morning in New Haven, I was struck by a large painting at the end of the gallery. I approached it and, as I began to take it in, I was completely overcome with emotion. My knees gave out and I dropped to the floor as tears rolled down my cheeks. (I later read that Delacroix had a similar experience upon first seeing Constable’s “The Hay Wain” in the Louvre in 1824.)
The painting was Constable’s “Hadleigh Castle, The Mouth of the Thames – Morning After a Storm”. It was at that moment I saw my destiny and decided to commit myself to painting.
I bought two books about Constable’s life and work that morning before leaving the museum (and a refrigerator magnet – I couldn’t resist!) and several more in the months to come. “Hadleigh Castle” was painted in 1829, following the death of his beloved wife Maria, based on a sketch that he had made whilst on their honeymoon twelve years earlier. Constable’s love for Maria was profound. They fell in love in 1809, but had to wait seven years before they could be together as their union was opposed my Maria’s grandfather, who was also her family’s benefactor. For seven years they kept their love a secret, seeing one another for only brief periods, oftentimes months apart, communicating via clandestine letters in between. I used to wonder how he was even able to paint whilst drowning in the depths of what must have been an unbearable grief. But perhaps it was the work that kept his head above water.
Although contemporaries (both born in 1776), Constable and Turner seemed to have antithetical approaches to painting the landscape. Both were keenly interested in capturing light and atmosphere, but whereas Constable’s approach was to strive for a fidelity to the natural appearance of the objects in the landscape as a means of suggesting the light and atmosphere, Turner attempted (well, succeeded, really) to paint the light and atmosphere themselves, as if they were tangible forms. For years I’ve tried to reconcile this dichotomy, both in my mind and my work. This painting is as close as I’ve come.
I am a full time artist, originally from Massachusetts, currently living in northern Maine. I work primarily in oils and pastel, and occasionally watercolor. I offer instruction in drawing and painting at my studio in a renovated potato house. Please feel free to view samples of my work (You can see a larger version of each picture if you click on it.) and leave a comment if you are so inclined. Be sure to click the "Older Posts" button at the bottom to see more work. I don't always have time to respond to comments, but if you wish to correspond with me, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org