Portrait of Maria Bicknell John Constable Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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John Constable is known to express his life through his portraits. He married Maria Bicknell on 2nd October 1816 in London. Maria suffered from poor health and eventually died of tuberculosis in 1828 leaving behind seven children under the care of Constable.

Constable used oil medium as paint and a canvas frame for the portrait. In the portrait, Maria's face and eyes are facing the right side. She has a golden necklace on her white gown. Her curly dark brown hair which slightly covers her left ear, long nose and large grey eyes are easily noticeable. The background is dark but perfectly blends in and compliments the portrait painting. Maria's face is bright, more present and visible. Light seems to approach her from the foreground as a shadow is visible in the background. Most of Constable's portraits were not full length, Maria's portrait included.

Constable completed the painting of Maria Bicknell's portrait on 10th July 1816. Three months after the painting John Constable and Maria Bicknell got married. Constable's reason for painting the portrait is attributed to the level of love and affection he had towards Maria. Constable admitted to having a strong feeling towards the presence of the portrait and it calmed his spirit while feeling closer to Maria. Martin Gayford's book, Constable in Love, reveals the process of courtship between John Constable and Maria Bicknell. The art is classified under the art movement of romanticism.

In his younger years, John Constable had a liking for landscape art and he was inspired by famous landscape artists such as Peter Rubens, Annibale Carracci, Thomas Gainsborough and Claude Lorrain. He has done a few portraits but his landscapes paintings were more acknowledged and valued. The artwork is owned by Tate Britain and on display at the Tate Britain Gallery in London, United Kingdom. The size of the original painting is 30.50 by 25.10 cm. The potrait of Maria Bicknell was initially held by George Salting who later bequeathed it to the National Gallery in 1910. In 1951, it was transferred to the Tate Gallery where it has been in the exhibition.