John Constable’s “Salisbury Cathedral From the Meadows” has been bought for the U.K. for the equivalent of 40 million pounds ($60 million) by a new partnership of galleries, backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The purchase price before tax concessions was 23.1 million pounds. The Lottery Fund contributed 15.8 million pounds and the Art Fund 1 million pounds. There was also a “very substantial” donation from Manton Foundation and Tate Members, according to Nick Serota, director of the Tate galleries.
The acquisition is part of a collaboration called Aspire between five galleries: Amgueddfa Cymru -- National Museum Wales; the National Galleries of Scotland; Colchester and Ipswich Museums; Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum; and Tate Britain. The painting went on show at Tate Britain today and will be exhibited at the partner galleries over five years.
“Salisbury Cathedral From the Meadows is one of the great masterpieces of British art,” Serota said today at a news conference at Tate Britain. “Through the innovative Aspire program, the work will now be widely accessible across Britain.
The purchase was made possible through the collaboration of the children of the late Lord Ashton of Hyde, Serota said. The painting had previously been on view at the National Gallery in London on long-term loan since 1983.
“Salisbury Cathedral From the Meadows” is one of a series of monumental paintings -- the “six-footer” canvases -- by the artist. It was first exhibited at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition in 1831. The U.K. holds seven of the 12 large-scale works Constable exhibited, and five of the 13 full-size sketches that he made for these, Serota said. This work was one of two that were privately owned.
The painting depicts Salisbury Cathedral under a heavy cloud and a rainbow from across the River Avon. The scene has been interpreted as a metaphor for pressure felt by the Church of England for its diminished political importance, Tate said.
(Richard Vines writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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