Constable sketch found behind another painting at V&A

Posted November 27th, 2013

England, Featured Posts, News, Paintings, Romanticism, Talks

A new John Constable oil sketch will go on display tomorrow in the V&A’s Edwin and Susan Davies Galleries after it was discovered at the V&A Museum hidden on the back of Branch Hill Pond: Hampstead, another work by the English Romantic painter.

V&A experts found the sketch, which was probably painted in the late summer of 1821 or 1822, while attempting to remove the lining on the reverse after it became loose.

The painting will also be featured in the V&A’s autumn 2014 exhibition Constable: The Making of a Master, which opens next September.

Constable, who is known for being thrifty with materials sometimes painted sketches on both sides of a support. Conservators Clare Richardson and Nicola Costaras have found the oil sketch after X-radiography had already revealed evidence of another composition. It had been assumed though that this was a sketch painted over when Constable painted Branch Hill Pond: Hampstead.

Experts believe that Constable painted the sketch outdoors in Hampstead on a canvas which might have been pinned to the lid of the paint box for extra support.

Curator’s Perspective: “A Conservative Revolutionary: John Constable

Presented by Dr. Mark Evans, senior curator of paintings at the Victoria and Albert Museum

This lecture contrasts John Constable’s ideas on the history of landscape painting, as revealed by lectures he gave in 1833 and 1836, with critics’ shocked responses to his apparent lack of finish and disregard for formal decorum. It surveys Constable’s posthumous international celebrity as a precursor of the Impressionists, or even a prophet of photography (the daguerreotype was invented 2 years after his death). Ironically, reverence for the old masters seems to have furnished the mainspring of Constable’s own revolutionary break with the conventions of past art.

John Constable (1776-1837) is generally recognized, along with J.M.W. Turner, as England’s greatest landscape painter. In 1888, Constable’s last surviving daughter gave the Victoria and Albert Museum in London his remaining studio contents, making it the principal collection of the artist’s work.

This lecture was presented in conjunction with the exhibition Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum, on view at the Frist Center from June 22 through September 30, 2012.