The Victoria & Albert Museum, London, joins Romanian museums as an Art Safari partner and brings to Bucharest the exhibition “Seeking Truth – The Art of John Constable”, curated by Dr. Emily Knight and Katharine Martin.
John Constable was one of the most famous landscape painters of all time, which is the reason why the two curators selected him to introduce his art to the Romanian public. Born and raised in rural Suffolk, in the south-east of England, Constable loved his native countryside all his life, making it the main subject of his creations, even after he had moved away.
His mission as a painter was to render the truth and beauty of the natural world. He made countless plein-air sketches to better understand nature and paint it more faithfully and he combined this careful illustration with a deep interest in the work of past landscape painters. The artist used color in a free and highly expressive manner, which attracted much criticism from his contemporaries. However, he refused to submit to any compromise and experimented until his death in 1837. A year later, in 1838, the great Romanian landscape painter Nicolae Grigorescu was born, absorbing, with the Barbizon realists, the pictorial lessons of Constable. The exhibition analyzes Constable’s personal connection to place, his search for inspiration and his innovative techniques.
Around 50 of the works selected for the Art Safari exhibition were donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, by John Constable’s daughter, Isabel Constable, in 1888 – the year she died. Isabel Constable was the second daughter and fourth child of John Constable and like her father, was a well-known painter in the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Another 6 works signed by John Constable had been donated to the London museum in 1857 by an important British collector, a contemporary of Constable – John Sheepshanks, being one of the most substantial donations at the time.
On the other hand, John Constable was a lifelong art collector. The works of many famous artists were part of the painter’s collection. The V&A does not own Constable’s collected works, but in Art Safari several prints will be on display to give an insight into Constable’s profile as a collector.
John Constable collected works by many different British and European artists including watercolours and drawings by J.M.W. Turner, Thomas Gainsborough and Thomas Gilpin and prints by Claude Lorrain, Jacob van Ruisdael and Antonie Waterloo.
“The Leaping Horse” – not all great works are kept in small frames
Among the works present in Bucharest is also “The Leaping Horse”, which is part of a series of atypical works in terms of size, almost 2 meters, painted by John Constable in 1819. Out of the desire to be noticed as a serious landscape painter, the artist chose to create larger works as a result of the criticism brought by his contemporaries to his painting techniques.
This is a full-size sketch for Constable’s exhibition painting Leaping Horse, the last and arguably the most powerful of his River Stour views. It shows traffic on the river with barges trying to pass each other. The central action depicts a horse mounted by a boy leaping over one of the barriers constructed on the river’s towing paths to keep cattle from straying. Local Suffolk barge horses were specially trained to leap over such barriers and this gives the painting its title. Constable used rapid, broad-brush strokes to capture the bustle and energy of the moment.
An inspiration for artists… and meteorologists
The British artist was a master at capturing with his brush the atmospheric changes in the sky and the beauty of these phenomena. His works offer the feeling of immersion and truly take your breath away. Clouds were a leitmotif of his work and one of his great passions.
But John Constable didn’t just paint clouds, he used to make notes of the weather conditions, the direction of the light and the time of day, and most often these notes could be found on the back of his works. This information was of great use to the meteorologist Luke Howard (1772-1864) in his research related to the classification of clouds, which offered him the title “Godfather of Clouds”.
“Stonehenge”, an apotheotical end for Art Safari exhibition
The two curators from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London chose to complete the exhibition route dedicated to John Constable with “Stonehenge”. The artist painted it at a sad moment in his life, shortly after the death of his wife. The melancholy conveyed by the painting can be easily associated with the moments the painter was going through. In the catalogue of the work was found the description “The mysterious monument of Stonehenge, standing remote on a bare and boundless heath…”, probably the words of the artist himself. The work provides an engaging image that demonstrates his thorough technical skills at the end of his career and celebrates Constable’s achievements.
From Great Britain, Art Safari also proposes a trip to Korea through the Poster Art exhibition by Byoungil-il Sun, made in partnership with the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Romania. In the Romanian Pavilion, the public is invited to discover the landscape painter Ștefan Popescu in the exhibition “Ștefan Popescu. Travel story”, curated by Elena Olariu and made in partnership with the Bucharest City Museum. A non-conformist artist, born in 1932 who paints with a sewing needle can be admired in the exhibition “Lilian Theil. An old woman who smiles” (curator: Raluca Ilaria Demetrescu), and the art of our days is well represented in the exhibition “Mihai Mureșan. Little things” (Univ. Prof. Ion Sbârciu).
Night Tours – every Friday and Saturday between 22:00 and 1:00 (22:15 – last entry)
Dacia-Romania Palace (Bucharest City Museum), Lipscani street no.18-20, Bucharest
Tickets can be purchased on: https://tickets.artsafari.ro/e?lang=ro