John Constable, a renowned artist from the early nineteenth century, devoted much of his time to studying the sky. His interest in the structure and movement of clouds is exemplified in his cloud studies produced in 1821-1822 while in Hampstead. These oil sketches show the clouds in a three-dimensional volume, with a remarkable understanding of their form. In fact, Constable was so dedicated to this study that he produced around fifty paintings of the sky alone, with fifty careful studies of the skies of a larger format.
Constable’s cloud study can be regarded as strictly observational, with details of weather conditions marked on the back of the canvas. He provided specific information such as the time of the day and points of the compass, further emphasizing his interest in accurate depiction. This methodical approach demonstrates that Constable was one of the most assiduous and systematic students of the sky among his contemporaries.
One of Constable’s four examples painted on a larger format, the cloud study, is among the fifty extant paintings of the sky that Constable produced in Hampstead. Two of these paintings were bequeathed to The Frick Collection in 2001. Overall, Constable’s cloud study is an excellent representation of his dedication to the observation of nature and is evidence of his remarkable skill in painting skies.