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Salisbury Cathedral from the meadows

Painting, 1831, 153.7×192 cm

Description of the artwork «Salisbury Cathedral from the meadows»

John constable is often mentioned along withWilliam Turner – as the greatest British landscape painters of the romantic period. Both artists have sought to capture and convey natural phenomena, many working in the open air. However, these masters have never been close and have different approaches to landscape painting. For the first value was for "truth in everything". The latter created a dramatic, almost abstract colour compositions, pushing on his canvases to the elements – land, sea, sun and sky. Unlike colleagues, constable was a supporter of the arts, which, in his own words, "grounded, scientifically and technically".

And it is not surprising that alongside this, he argued: "painting is another definition for the experience". The adherents of romanticism found no contradiction between the scientific and emotional, which we see. In their view, mind and senses complemented and strengthened each other. So the truth is opened through the prism of personal experience, was much higher than obtained in the result of blind adherence to universal laws.

In this sense, constable was a great empiricist. He studied natural phenomena, but creatively transformed through their own emotional essence. In what is not evident than in his images of the sky. For constable, it was the same God as the Turner – light. "The sky is the source of light in Nature– wrote the artist – and it drives everything". In the landscape "View of Salisbury Cathedral from the meadows" (or "rainbow over the Cathedral of Salisbury") the firmament – the main character.

Salisbury is a small town in the West of England – the artist first visited in 1811 on the invitation of the local Bishop, one of its first patrons. For him he wrote"View of Salisbury Cathedral from the Park of the Bishop" (four versions of this painting are now stored in various museums of the world). But, more importantly, there is a constable met the man who became his closest friend and the nephew of the priest John Fisher. To him painter arrived after a terrible shock – the death of his wife in the autumn of 1828, and it was he who suggested to paint a picture of the "Church under a cloud". The idea of a master made, but the name was rejected.

Obviously, the constable didn't want his picture was interpreted as a political statement. The fact that in 1829, a law was passed allowing Catholics to sit in Parliament. Conservative Fisher and Constable regarded it as "the greatest evil" and undermining British values. Maybe that's why the sky hangs so low over the masterpiece of English religious architecture – the very embodiment of the Church of England. However, a change recommended by a friend name to the more neutral "View of Salisbury Cathedral from the meadows," the landscape is likely to have tried to avoid such a narrow interpretation.

On the Polona depicts the Salisbury Cathedral on the river Avon. For many months constable was doing preparatory pencil sketches and oil sketches from different angles. The final composition represents a mix of different topographical elements, artfully summarized in the right place. So, Leadenhall, where the end of the rainbow, and the Church of St. Thomas on the left is not visible from this position. The artist has repeatedly used this technique in order to seek greater harmony and enhance emotional impact. One example is the canvas"Wivenhoe Park, Essex" from the National gallery in Washington.

Despite such tricks, "a View of Salisbury Cathedral from the meadows" full of life much more than the landscape from the collection of the Frick with carefully calibrated topography, framing branches and four meticulously placed cows.

This is the first landscape by constable, on which a rainbow appeared. X-rays showed that he finished it after completion. And it was the perfect solution. One graceful stroke, the artist combines different elements of the picture (the Cathedral, the bend of the river and the tree, by which a passing horse-drawn cart) and softened the horizon.

Constable symbolically placed the base of the rainbow in Leadenhall, where lived John Fisher. This allegory has a special meaning when a year after the public screening of each constable died at the age of 44 years.

And finally, a rainbow around the Cathedral can be interpreted from the perspective of traditional Christian iconography. The storm was over and took with him as the "Catholic threat" of the Anglican Church, and their own deep sense of emptiness that I felt after losing his wife. Rainbow noted that all alarms are gone: people have received God's forgiveness (as after a Flood) or the promise of peace after the storms of life (after the Resurrection).

Author: Vlad Maslov
I like24 To the selection27
About the artwork

Alternative titles: View of Salisbury Cathedral from the meadow

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Landscape

Style of art: Romanticism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1831

Size: 153.7×192 cm

Artwork in selections: 27 selections