Turner and Constable were rivals in the London art scene in the first half of the nineteenth century. Their stylistic choices were markedly distinct—with Turner’s dramatic depictions, often of foreign places, pitted against Constable’s landscape views drenched in nostalgia for the pre-industrial English countryside. Together, however, these two titans of landscape painting reshaped the genre in Britain and beyond and changed the directions of modern painting in Europe.
Turner was much more successful than Constable in Britain, both commercially and among critics, rocketing to fame in his early twenties; today, Turner might be considered the more renowned of the two, with a wide range of landscape images that engaged issues of mythology, trade, slavery, war, and more.
Britain was much slower to embrace Constable, who was not elected as a full member of the Royal Academy of Arts until he was in his early fifties and faced financial difficulties throughout his life. Somewhat ironically—since he devoted himself entirely to English subjects and never left his native country—he was treasured in France, with French artists like Delacroix proclaiming Constable the “father of French landscape painting.” Constable’s legacy can be seen in the paintings of French artists of the Barbizon school and, subsequently, the artists associated with Impressionism, examples of which can be seen a few galleries away.