Late Constable ★★★★ Royal Academy of Arts | Oct 30, 2021 - Feb 13, 2022


Constable has become such a major part of the British psyche principally due to "The Hay Wain" and the Dedham Vale paintings that his work can appear clichéd. Here, in Late Constable, we get the opportunity to see paintings and drawings from his later years and, whilst the style remains unmistakable, there are subtle changes. Many of the skies feature stormy clouds which can occasionally display wonderfully loose brushwork as in the depiction of a sudden downpour. His beautifully detailed painting of the newly opened Chain Pier in Brighton also has a twist by incorporating modern buildings and fisherfolk working in the foreground. We particularly enjoyed the striking watercolour of Stonehenge – “standing remote on a bare and boundless heath.” A fascinating element of this exhibition is seeing the finished paintings displayed alongside their preparatory full-sized oil sketches. The famous "Leaping Horse" is a case in point; being able to look closely at the details and seeing how the work developed is very much worth the effort. Our favourite work shown is "Arundel Mill and Castle"; this was, in fact, his final work which he was still working on at the time of his sudden death in 1837. Debate continues to rage as to whether Constable's painting lacks the poetry of Turner. Are his landscapes bland and therefore less prestigious? Here is a chance to see for yourself. It is wonderful to have this opportunity to view and compare so many works by England's iconic and pre-eminent landscape painter.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Image: John Constable, Stonehenge, 1835. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Bequeathed by Isabel Constable, daughter of the artist. Photo © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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