In 2013, John Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831, one of the greatest landscape paintings in that distinguished tradition within British art, was secured for the nation through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation), The Manton Foundation and Tate Members
The acquisition is part of a five-year partnership, Aspire, between Tate Britain, National Galleries of Scotland, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, The Salisbury Museum and Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund, which enables this work to be on almost continual public view at these venues
Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831 will be seen in exhibitions and displays which include the partner venues’ existing collections and reflect the individual context of each site, and will highlight Constable’s contemporary resonance to audiences in rural and urban locations. Accompanying each display will be an inspiring programme of activities enabling people of all ages to enjoy and learn more about the work of Constable.
Through Aspire, the five partners form a national network for Constable Studies to promote exchange and create new opportunities for training and skills development. It has a particular focus on developing new audiences for heritage through traineeships and the provision of learning materials for schools, teachers and families.
Aspire will also shine a spotlight on each organisation’s permanent collection, showing Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831 alongside a wide range of significant works from Thomas Gainsborough to Lucian Freud. In addition, after the initial five year period, all the partners will continue to have special access to the painting for their exhibitions, whilst ensuring that this extraordinary work is lent to other institutions so that it can be enjoyed by the widest possible public.
When Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831 went on display at Christchurch Mansion’s Wolsey Art Gallery in Ipswich in February this year, over the following three months, the Gallery received more than 10,000 visitors, a 230 per cent increase on the same period the previous year. We anticipate that their summer exhibition, Constable’s Gardens: 200th Anniversary Exhibition (until 6 September), will continue to attract new audiences. The show celebrates the bicentenary of two of John Constable’s most personal works: Golding Constable’s Kitchen Garden 1815 and Golding Constable’s Flower Garden 1815. Joining these important works from Ipswich’s collection are major loans from the Fitzwilliam Museum, V&A and Tate, including Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831.
The Aspire project has worked closely with the institutions and individuals involved in each stage of the tour. As with any exhibition, standard loan and conservation procedures are followed, and the timing of each display is carefully considered with each partner venue. The safety of any artwork is of primary importance and this is discussed and conditions agreed in advance of an exhibition.
When building a partnership that comprises a variety of locations, something which also needs to be considered is the difference in how works of art are insured at both national and regional venues. As this loan sits outside of national to national, and regional to regional indemnity arrangements, each venue has to ensure appropriate provision is in place.