John Constable (1776-1837) is arguably the best-loved of English artists; his fame and popularity are rivalled only by his great contemporary, J M W Turner. But like Turner, his reputation rests on a handful of very well-known paintings, normally Suffolk scenes such as Flatford Mill or Hay-Wain. Many of the magisterial productions of his last years, including Hadleigh Castle and The Opening of the Waterloo Bridge are a far cry from the Suffolk scenes, whilst his accomplishments within the difficult and competitive genre of marine painting have been consistently undervalued. Barry Venning's introduction considers Constable background, his family life, his education and the early friendships from which he drew patronage, support and advice. He discusses the artist's relationship with the great tradition of European landscape painting and examines the historical and cultural context within which Constable lived and worked.