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house martins

Constable and Stubbs

Tuesday, 2nd October 2001, West Yorkshire

butterbur leavesA WEST WIND BLOWS under the viaduct arches, twisting the Butterbur leaves (the ones that look rather like rhubarb) to reveal their lighter undersides. It gives animation to a shady corner. Constable used such highlights amongst the dark vegetation in the foreground of his some of his paintings.

While I've got English painters in mind, I find the glossy chestnut sheen on the two Welsh ponies in the meadow reminds me of Stubbs. I remember as a student in London taking a weekend walk on Hampstead Heath, a place where Constable painted, and calling in at Kenwood House, Welsh ponieswhere, at the time, Stubbs' life size portrait of the Whistlejacket dominated one of the galleries. The story was that the commission was to include horse, rider and landscape, each painted by the three leading artists of the day in these genres. When the Arab stallion, Whistlejacket caught sight of the canvas as it was manoeuvred through the stable yard he became agitated, rearing up, wild-eyed, nostrils flaring like his likeness.

The patron, to his credit, decided that the painting should stay just as it was, 'unfinished'. next page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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