New research into Constable’s brooding, dramatic and compositionally complex Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows offers an expanded context – political, religious, artistic and scientific – in which the painting may be understood.

John Constable Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows exhibited 1831
John Constable
Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows exhibited 1831
Oil on canvas
1537 x 1920 mm
Tate T13896

Painted in oil on a canvas measuring six feet (or two metres) across, Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows was considered by John Constable to be his most important work – the ‘great Salisbury’, as he termed it. Its central motif, the cathedral, carried particular significance both personally and publicly, and its depiction demonstrated Constable’s intense ambition as an original, relevant and academic landscape painter.

Prompted by its acquisition by Tate via the Aspire partnership in 2013, this In Focus uses an initial discussion of the painting’s making, reception and subsequent interpretation as a springboard to explore specific aspects: the landscape’s socio-political significance and Constable’s Tory outlook; his presentation of trees and meadows as key elements in a carefully managed working landscape; the complexity of the painting’s meteorological elements; and the cathedral’s symbolism in the present day.

Published in February 2017, this project is authored by Amy Concannon (Tate), Dr Brian Young (University of Oxford), Professor John E. Thornes (University of Birmingham), Professor Charles Watkins (University of Nottingham) and The Very Reverend June Osborne, Dean of Salisbury.

ISBN 978-1-84976-535-0