Hadleigh Castle, The Mouth of the Thames--Morning After a Stormy Night

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John Constable simultaneously extends and ruptures Gilpin’s aesthetic by infusing his landscapes with emotional and symbolic meaning, as well as by experimenting with new compositional techniques. Ronald Paulson unites the paintings of John Constable and the poetry of William Wordsworth in single moment of artistic/poetic revolution. Paulson claims that, like Wordsworth, Constable was revolutionary in “seeking a basic change in the artistic subject and source of inspiration” (107). Although Constable’s landscapes can be linked to the poetic and prose works of the time, his ideological revolution in painting “lies in the elevation of independent landscape, free of both literary texts and the human-centered assumptions of Claude and Turner” (108). For Constable, the composition itself could become a text, rendering an already symbolic structure, such as a ruin or temple, more sublime through dramatic perspective, lighting, and brushwork. However, the landscapes of Constable’s final decade, which includes Hadleigh Castle, The Mouth of the Thames—Morning after a Stormy Night (1829), are far more symbolic than his previous works, even seeming to correspond with the very techniques that he previously denounced. Hadleigh Castle is a particularly symbolic landscape if one examines the personal trauma surrounding its initial conception and later execution. The composition seems to be infused with his despair at the loss of his wife, and his choice of the ruin as a subject is not insignificant. Several commentators suggest that his awareness of the ruin as an artistic subject and symbol may have come from his reading of Wordsworth’s “Elegiac Stanzas.” Leslie Parris and Ian Flemming-Williams contend that Wordsworth’s stoic conclusion—“‘Not without hope we suffer and mourn’”—are perfectly aligned with the circumstances surrounding the composition of Hadleigh Castle (I. Fleming-Williams and L. Parris, Constable 314).