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A Curator's insight into 'John Constable: Observing the Weather'

11 February 2016

Ahead of the opening of the highly anticipated exhibition ‘John Constable: Observing the Weather’ this Saturday, we spoke to its Curator, Michael Regan. He gave us an exclusive insight into the inspiration behind the show and a particularly special highlight to look out for. 

Constable is an artist who went against the prevailing fashion of the time and sought to objectively depict landscape for its own sake. He knew that this would set him on a collision course with the artistic establishment, (as represented by the Royal Academy), but in spite of this, he also sought to succeed commercially as an artist.

I was fascinated by the fact that in order to make his landscapes more accurate and believable, Constable was one of the first artists to make use of the burgeoning science of meteorology. I wanted to build an exhibition around this fact and the idea that Constable worked on two distinct levels: one objective, and one subjective, but both mutually compatible - his uncompromising search for truth, and also his deep love and emotional attachment to the English countryside.

As I began to research and identify the world of meteorological science, as it existed in the time of Constable, I found many similarities of approach between the scientists and the artist. I found a remarkable similarity between Constable’s own weather observations, to be found inscribed on the back of many of his sketches, and the private weather diaries of the period. Some of this material has been included in the content of the exhibition in the form of examples of the scientific publications which Constable will have read at the time and his own sketches.

For me, one of the highlights of the exhibition is Constable’s ‘six-footer’ oil sketch entitled ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows’, which has been lent by the Guildhall Gallery London. This late picture represents the culmination of everything that gives Constable’s works a sense of modernity and that unique fusion of observation and emotion.

'John Constable: Observing the Weather' will be on show from 13 February 2016 - 8 May 2016

Find out more about 'John Constable: Observing the Weather'

Image credit: John Constable, Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire, from the Meadows, 1831 © Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London Corporation

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