June 22, 2012 – 6:30 pm | Lecture + Gallery Talk
Curator's Perspective: "A Conservative Revolutionary: John Constable and Art History"
Presented by Dr. Mark Evans, senior curator of paintings at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Frist Center Auditorium
Free; seating is first come, first seated
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.
Constable famously declared, “When I sit down to make a sketch from nature, the first thing I try to do is, to forget that I have ever seen a picture.” However, he was also a profound admirer of the seventeenth-century painters Claude Lorrain, Sir Peter Paul Rubens, and Jacob Ruysdael, making meticulous copies after their work which he justified as “a more lasting remembrance” —in opposition to a mere sketch, which would “not serve to drink at again & again.”