John Constable Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831
John Constable, Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831

One of John Constable’s most important works, Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831, has been secured for the British public through major grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund, a very substantial donation from The Manton Foundation and the support of Tate Members.

The painting belonged to a private collection but was loaned to the National Gallery since 1983. It was acquired by Tate for a special price of £23.1 million with tax concessions, equivalent to an open market sale of £40 million. If the painting had not been acquired by Tate, it was at risk of being sold abroad.

Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows will be on show at Tate Britain until the end of 2013, before touring to four partner venues across the UK as part of a new partnership called Aspire, allowing it to be enjoyed by a wide public. It will visit National Museum Wales in 2014, Colchester and Ipswich Museum in 2015, Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum in 2016 and the National Galleries of Scotland in 2017.

It is one of a series of monumental ‘six-footer’ canvases painted by Constable. This was the scale he reserved for his finest compositions, the paintings he wished to make a great impact in the crowded, competitive hang of the Royal Academy exhibitions. This work is the most visually spectacular of all the ‘six footers’, the most loaded in meaning and the one of which he was most proud. Constable called it ‘The Great Salisbury’, and wrote, ‘I am told I got it to look better than anything I have yet done.’

Tate director Nicholas Serota said: ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows is one of the great masterpieces of British art. I am extremely grateful to the owners who have worked with us while we have raised the funds to ensure the painting remains in the UK.’