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A detail from Cenotaph to the Memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds by John Constable.

I first saw this painting several decades ago when living in London. It's in the National Gallery along with many other Constables. This painting stood out. It was altogether darker and more claustrophobic than Constable's better known and loved landscapes – those tend to emphasize color and space. To be quite honest, I never really liked that Constable, certainly at that time. But 'Cenotaph' – that hit me from the start. I found it beautiful in its portrayal of remoteness. The deer, startled and turning to the viewer, suggests that you have just come across this glade after a ramble lost in the woods and disturbed death and nature combined.

Constable restricts himself to many shades of brown and black with only the gray of the sky, suggestive of heavy rainclouds, providing a distinct contrast in palette. As a depiction of the colors and shapes of a winter wood it is impeccable.

I am sure I internalized this painting deeply. Without being consciously aware of it, I am sure I am seeking a similar scene during my forays into the St. Louis and other cemeteries.

I've never matched it, or even come close to that particular atmosphere. But then again, I am not a great painter! But I'm grateful that I was inspired to search.

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