Elegy Landscapes: Constable and Turner and the Intimate Sublime

October 31, 2020
Elegy Landscapes: Constable and Turner and the Intimate Sublime

A sweeping look at the lives and work of two important EnglishRomantic painters, from a Los Angeles Times Book Prize–winningauthor.Renowned poet Stanley Plumly, who has been praised for his"obsessive, intricate, intimate and brilliant" (Washington Post)nonfiction, explores immortality in art through the work of twoimpressive landscape artists: John Constable and J.M.W. Turner. Howis it that this disparate pair will come to be regarded asBritain's supreme landscape painters, precursors to Impressionismand Modernism? How did each painter's life influence his work?Almost exact contemporaries, both legendary artists experience alife-changing tragedy—for Constable it is the long illness anddeath of his wife; for Turner, the death of his singular parent andsupporter, his father. Their work will take on new powerthereafter: Constable, his Hampstead cloud studies; Turner, hisVenetian watercolors and oils. Seeking the transcendent aestheticawe of the sublime and reeling from their personal anguish, thesetalented painters portrayed the terrible beauty of the naturalworld from an intimate, close-up perspective.Plumly studies the paintings against the pull of the artists'lives, probing how each finds the sublime in different, thoughinherently connected, worlds. At once a meditation on thedifficulties in achieving truly immortal works of art and anexploration of the relationship between artist and artwork,Elegy Landscapes takes a wide-angle look at the philosophyof the sublime.