Constable in Love: Love, Landscape, Money and the Making of a Great Painter by Martin Gayford - review by Frances Spalding

Frances Spalding

‘That Necessary Article Cash’

Constable in Love: Love, Landscape, Money and the Making of a Great Painter

By

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‘A large income’, remarks Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park, ‘is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.’ Her cynicism offsets the untainted goodness of the heroine, Fanny Price, who is just a little exasperating. Certainly, in the early nineteenth century, lack of money could call a halt to marriage, as it did for John Constable. After declaring his love for Maria Bicknell, he had to wait seven years until his financial position was in good enough shape to make her his wife. ‘My Dear Sir,’ Maria wrote, early on in their relationship, ‘His [her father’s] only objection would be on the score of that necessary article Cash.’

Martin Gayford is a widely admired art critic. He is also a biographer in the Jane Austen mode: immediately engaging, cunning, agreeable and alert to the vagaries of human behaviour. He avoids the tedium associated with biographies that travel remorselessly from cradle-to-grave by focusing instead on a significant

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