Constable: impressions of land, sea and sky
3 March – 12 June 2006
John Constable Great Britain 1776–1837 A boat passing a lock 1826 oil on canvas 101.6 x 127.0cm Collection of the Royal Academy of Arts, London © Royal Academy of Arts, London 1996. Photographer: Prudence Cuming Associates
Nature is the fountain’s head, the source from whence all originality must spring.
In March 2006 the National Gallery of Australia presents the first major John Constable exhibition in Australia for over thirty years.
The exhibition will show Constable’s brilliant depiction of nature, how he animated the landscape, created a sense of air and made nature come alive. Influential on artists painting landscapes outdoors, in expanding the range of colours used and in a greater freedom of handling of paint, his art became the benchmark for landscape painters in Europe during the nineteenth century.
John Constable (1776–1837) was one of the foremost English landscape painters of the nineteenth century, renowned for his pure and unaffected representation of nature. The son of a prosperous mill owner, merchant and barge operator, he grew up along the Stour River in Suffolk, England and spent several years working in his father’s business, where he learnt to understand the importance of weather to an agricultural community, observing atmospheric phenomena with a disciplined eye.
Constable was a great innovator; he combined his deep understanding of nature with a passionate interest in the works of the Old Masters, in particular the landscape painting of Claude Lorraine and Jacob van Ruisdael, juxtaposing their interpretations of the natural world against his own experience of it. His rapid on-the-spot sketches, such as Rainstorm over the sea c 1824–28, revealed a new vivacity to the observation of nature, capturing the effervescent sensations of light and atmosphere.
The exhibition showcases the extraordinary range of Constable’s work, from outdoor sketches to masterpieces such as Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Grounds
1822–23 and The Vale of Dedham 1827–28.
Over 100 works have been selectively drawn together from distinguished museums and private collections in Great Britain, the United States and Australia, including the British Museum, the Royal Academy of Arts, London, Tate Britain, Victoria and Albert Museum, Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, and The Frick Collection, New York.
The exhibition is presented thematically to show key phases of Constable’s approach to the landscape, such as his well-known cloud studies illustrating the astonishing range and skill of his oil sketching methods, and what may well be his favorite subject, the lock – including his Royal Academy Diploma work, A boat passing a lock 1826.
Of particular relevance to this country is Constable’s influence on the origins of landscape painting in Australia – through John Glover, Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton. A special display titled Constable in Australia has been included within the exhibition, allowing the Australian public to explore Constable’s influence on Australian art through much-loved Australian landscape paintings.
Constable: impressions of land, sea and sky is curated by Dr Anne Gray, Assistant Director, Australian Art, and Dr John Gage, who has taught for twenty years in the Department of History of Art, Cambridge University, is a fellow of the British Academy and recently worked on an exhibition of Constable for the Grand Palais in Paris. The exhibition is accompanied by a full-colour catalogue with essays from renowned Constable Scholars: Conal Shields, The Thomson Collection; MaryAnne Stevens, Acting Secretary, Royal Academy of Arts; Mark Evans, Senior Curator of the Word and Image, Victorian & Albert Museum; and Ann Galbally, Associate Professor, Department of Fine Arts Melbourne University.
Significant education and public programs accompany the exhibition, including a lecture series, artist talks, student and teacher workshops, films and special events.
Developed by the National Gallery of Australia in partnership with the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Constable: impressions of land, sea and sky will be shown at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra from 3 March to 12 June 2006, and at the Museum of New Zealand, Wellington from 5 July to 8 October 2006.