Constable in Context: Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows in perspective, The Salisbury Museum, The King’s House, 65 The Close, Salisbury SP1 2EN, until 25th March 2017
John Constable called this painting ‘The Great Salisbury’ and also wrote ‘I am told I got it to look better than anything I have yet done.’ Well, I certainly am not going to disagree with him there. It was secured for the Nation by the Tate through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), The Manton Foundation, the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation) and Tate Members and will tour the UK as part of ‘Aspire’.
One of his ‘six footer’ canvases it is a tour-de-force and its radical style was a turning point for many artists who copied Constable’s “expressive” style for architectural subjects. The Museum in this fascinating exhibition has made the painting the centrepiece of a show which focuses on images of the Cathedral from the 17th century up to this century, including works by Henrick de Cort, Frederick Nash, Frederick MacKenzie and JMW Turner.
The Museum’s Marketing Officer, Louise Tunnard, sums it up well saying: “Salisbury Cathedral is one of the most significant and memorable buildings in England – so many of us have direct memories of this building that will always be treasured. Just in the same way that you never forget your first view of the sea, people do not tend to forget their first view of the Cathedral. The impact this building has had on artists and their subsequent urge to record it for posterity, has provided us with an amazing record of the building over time.
The irony is that as human beings, having seen something we then tend to stop looking closely at it, but I hope this exhibition will encourage residents of Salisbury and visitors alike, to really look at the Cathedral building and see how lucky we are to live and work alongside such a wonderful structure.”
I couldn’t agree more. The Cathedral is such a special place and whenever I go to Salisbury it is the first place I visit to wonder and marvel anew. Constable obviously felt the same way too – thank goodness!