Late Constable – Royal Academy of Arts

John Constable RA, Rainstorm over the Sea, c. 1824-8.

Oil on paper laid on canvas. 23.5 x 32.6 cm. Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Given by Isabel Constable 1888. Photo © Royal Academy of Arts, London; photographer: John Hammond.

This Winter, the Royal Academy of Arts is holding a Late Constable exhibition to celebrate the work of one of Britain’s most renowned artists. It may come as a surprise, however, to learn that this is the first time the Royal Academy has given such attention to Constable’s work.

Running from the 30th October 2021 to the 13th February 2022, the exhibition brings together Constable’s oil paintings, drawings and watercolours from 1825 to 1837.

As seen so commonly with artists towards the end of their careers, Constable developed a distinctive style in his final decade, one far more expressive than his earlier work – this is perhaps why critics have been so eagerly awaiting this retrospective.It has been pointed out that much of the work exhibited was painted after the long illness and eventual death of Constable’s wife, an event which may account for the rather gloomy and dramatic atmosphere in much of his work.

The general gloom of these works also reflects, however, Constable’s fascination with weather – not just from an artistic perspective, but a scientific one. Many of the paintings, both oil and watercolour, depict various cloud formations. Constable took a great interest in reading contemporary writings on meteorology, aiming to improve the accuracy of his work. By understanding how clouds formed and impacted the sky, he was able to understand in more depth the relationship between the sky and the landscape below it. So, if you get a chance to visit the exhibition, make sure to notice how the sky in each work is unique. 

For more information on the exhibition and details on how to book, visit the Royal Academy’s website here

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