Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review: Late Constable at the Royal Academy from 30 October 2021 to 13 February 2022

Exhibition Review: Late Constable at the Royal Academy from 30 October 2021 to 13 February 2022

The Royal Academy presents the first survey of the late work of John Constable (1776-1837). The exhibition entitled Late Constable explores the last twelve years of the artist’s career, from 1825 until his death in 1837. The exhibition brings together over 50 works including paintings and oil sketches as well as watercolours, drawings and prints, taking an in-depth look at the development of the artist’s late style.

Constable had many close ties with the Royal Academy, he became a student at the Royal Academy Schools in 1800, aged 24 and was elected a Royal Academician in 1829, at the age of 53. His relationship with the institution was mixed, from many years he was rejected as a full member but when he was elected he contributed in the exhibitions and teaching.

The exhibition is arranged in three sections. The first section, 1825-1829, starts with the last of Constable’s celebrated six-foot Suffolk ‘canal’ scenes, The Leaping Horse, 1825, one of the highlights of the Royal Academy’s collection.

This section also includes all of Constable’s major exhibition pictures from the period, including The Cornfield, 1825 and Dedham Vale, 1828,

as well as the artist’s Diploma Work, A Boat Passing a Lock, 1826, presented to the Royal Academy in 1829 upon his election as Royal Academician.

The second section, Works on Paper, features watercolours, drawings and prints. In his late career, Constable turned his attention to watercolour, highlights include his two exhibition watercolours, Old Sarum, 1834 and, most famously, Stonehenge, 1835.

The third section, 1830-37, explores Constable’s work in the 1830s leading up to his last two exhibition pictures: Cenotaph to the Memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1833-36 and Arundel Mill and Castle, 1837.

This intriguing exhibition explores the last twelve years of Constable’s career and life, it was a time of tragedy and success for the artist. In 1828, Constable’s wife died and he was left with seven children under the age of 12 to bring up. In 1829, Constable was at last elected as a full Academician, the artist had achieved considerable success in his career but acknowledgement from the fellow artists was a long process.

Constable always seems to have suffered due to his comparison to Turner, Constable is always seen as the uninspired traditionalist, whilst Turner was seen as more modern and experimental. Any one who visits this exhibition may ask the question Is this a fair comparison?

Constable’s later work especially is full of movement and detail, his ability to capture the various weather patterns provide the landscapes with arresting pictures of light and shade. The artist’s Stonehenge, 1835 is a wonderful example of bring a static subject alive by providing a vibrant background.

This exhibition provides plenty of evidence that the old Constable v Turner debate often obscures the reality that Constable was not just a great technician but had great affinity to nature and the landscape.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information and tickets, visit the Royal Academy website here

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