Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral masterpiece comes to Cardiff

20th March 2014

7 March - 7 September, 2014. National Museum Cardiff is first stop for tour of British masterpiece.

Detail, Salisbury Cathedral

One of the greatest masterpieces of British art, John Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831, will be on display at National Museum Cardiff from 7 March – 7 September 2014 as part of a UK wide tour of galleries and museums.

The famous Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831 was secured for the British public though the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Manton Foundation, the Art Fund and Tate Members.

Shown at National Museum Cardiff, the loan will complement Wales’ existing art collections which include outstanding examples of landscape art by some of our best known artists, from Tudor times to the modern day. It will be accompanied by Amgueddfa Cymru’s own Constable painting A Cottage in a Cornfield as well as works by Turner, Wilson and Van Gogh from the national collection.

The display, which will be accompanied by a series of events and learning activities in Cardiff, is part of a five-year partnership project between five partner institutions – Aspire – supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund. The initiative will enable the work to go on ‘almost constant view’ across the UK.

  • Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831 depicts Salisbury Cathedral under both a heavy cloud and a striking arched rainbow viewed from across the River Nadder. The scene has been interpreted as a metaphor for political pressure felt by the Church of England as well as the emotional turmoil Constable was feeling after the death of his wife.

    The painting was first exhibited at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition in 1831 and later in a regional exhibition in Birmingham as directed by Constable, who wanted the work to be seen by as many people as possible.

    The painting has been on view at The National Gallery on long-term loan since 1983 and most recently in the Constable room at Tate Britain before coming to Cardiff in March 2014.

    John Constable is famous for his landscapes, many of which feature the Suffolk countryside, where he was born and grew up. He made many open-air sketches, using these as a basis for his large exhibition paintings, which were worked up in the studio. His pictures are popularly accepted as masterpieces of British landscape painting today, but during his lifetime huge debate surrounded his ground-breaking techniques.

    Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831 is one of a series of monumental ‘six-footer’ canvases painted by the artist. This was the scale he reserved for his finest compositions, the paintings he wished to make a great impact in the crowded, competitive hang of the Royal Academy exhibitions. This work is the most visually spectacular of all the ‘six footers’, the most loaded in meaning and the one of which he was most proud. Constable called it ‘The Great Salisbury’ and wrote ‘I am told I got it to look better than anything I have yet done’.

    David Anderson, Director General of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, said: “We are delighted to be hosting one of the great masterpieces of British art here at National Museum Cardiff. Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831 will be a fine complement to the historic art collection during its stay here in Cardiff.

    “We are proud to be part of the innovative Aspire programme, which makes the work widely accessible to audiences across the UK. There will be a special education programme to support the display here which will encourage audiences to learn more about this painting and the work of John Constable.

    “I hope our visitors here in Wales take the opportunity to see this important painting up close at the first venue of the UK wide tour.”

    There will be an accompanying programme of events and learning activities as part of the display including a special free Study Day ‘Constable Inspires’ – a day of talks, opinions and new perspectives from the experts.

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Admission to all Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum sites is free, thanks to the support of the Welsh Government.

Amgueddfa Cymru operates seven national museums across Wales. These are National Museum Cardiff, St Fagans: National History Museum, National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon, Big Pit: National Coal Museum, Blaenafon, National Wool Museum, Dre-fachFelindre, National Slate Museum, Llanberis and the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea.