Suffolk painter's inspiration was love

A SUFFOLK painter's obsessive love for one woman will be revealed in a television documentary this month. It is believed that the intense love affair was John Constable's primary motivation for his revolutionary way of painting landscape.

A SUFFOLK painter's obsessive love for one woman will be revealed in a television documentary this month.

It is believed that the intense love affair was John Constable's primary motivation for his revolutionary way of painting landscape.

Constable, one of the world's greatest artists, who was previously classed as a traditionalist will be shown to be a radical.

Andrew Graham-Dixon will tell how Constable's love affair with Maria Bicknell enabled him to make a breakthrough in the art of the day.

He said: "He turned landscape painting into a vehicle for emotional expression.

"No-one had done that before.

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"I've always been curious about how he came to make this breakthrough.

"I suspect it may lie in his extraordinairy love affair with Maria Bicknell."

But as with many great love affairs, it was one fraught with difficulties.

It took him nine years to declare his love for her but her father and grandfather disapproved of the match and threatened her with disinheritance if she failed to break off the relationship.

Her family lived at East Bergholt rectory but Constable's father was just a miller.

After seven years of on-off courtship, five of which were conducted only by letter, the couple finally married in October 1816 when he was 40 and she was 28.

They had seven children together and were married for 12 years before Maria died of consumption in 1828.

On her death Constable wrote to a friend,

"Never again will I feel as I have felt. The face of the world is totally changed to me".

It is this view of the world that we now see coming across in his paintings.

For an insight into the artist's extraordinary life "Constable in Love" will be broadcast on BBC Two, Saturday March 22 at 7pm.

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