Son of a rich flour-mill owner from Suffolk, Constable studied at the London Royal Academy.
His passion for painting nature soon emerged: he discovered his primary inspiration from his native countryside, the lush and calm landscape along the banks of the Stour. The spiritual heir to Jacob van Ruisdaël, Rubens, and Claude Gellée, he only mastered his art after quite some time, becoming a member of the Royal Academy in 1819. In the anglomania that reigned in Paris in 1820, his paintings were greeted with glowing praise at the 1824 Salon, where the king of France awarded him a gold medal for "the merit of his landscapes." Delacroix, in London the following year to perfect his watercolor technique, was struck by the brilliant canvases and described the man as "admirable, outside the rut of old landscapes," which he considered to be too academic.
Constable, a masterful landscape artist who reinvented the representation of nature, halfway between naturalism and romanticism, as in his Field of Wheat (London, National Gallery), was one of the first artist to paint outdoors, thereby leading the way for the Impressionists.