impressions of land, sea and sky

3 March – 12 June 2006

Go to Constable: impressions of land, sea and sky subsite

John Constable 'Harwich Lighthouse' c.1820 oil on canvas, Collection of Tate Britain
John Constable 'Harwich Lighthouse' c.1820 oil on canvas, Collection of Tate Britain

MEDIA LAUNCH – Wednesday 1 March 12 noon
RSVP on +61 2 6240 6700 or

A major exhibition of the work of John Constable, one of the greatest British landscape painters opens at the National Gallery of Australia on 3 March 2006. Constable: impressions of land, sea and sky includes more than 100 paintings, drawings and prints drawn from distinguished museums and private collections worldwide.

Developed by the National Gallery of Australia in partnership with the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the National Gallery in Canberra is the sole Australian venue for this exhibition before touring to Wellington New Zealand.

John Constable (1776–1837) was one of the foremost English landscape painters of the nineteenth century, renowned for his pure and unaffected representation of nature. Half a century before the French Impressionists, Constable was creating his fresh impressions of land, sea and sky in England. The son of a prosperous mill owner, merchant and barge operator, he grew up along the Stour River in Suffolk, and spent several years working in his father’s business, where he learnt to understand the importance of weather to an agricultural community, observing atmospheric phenomena with a disciplined eye.

From early watercolours to later paintings, the extraordinary range of Constable’s work is presented including masterpieces such as, The wheatfield 1816, Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Grounds 1823, A boat passing the loc 1826 and The Vale of Dedham 1827–28. Presented thematically to show key phases of Constable’s approach to the landscape, the exhibition places particular focus on Constable’s remarkable oil sketches from nature, including his sky studies and Brighton seascapes.

Constable was a great innovator. He combined his deep understanding of nature with a passionate interest in the works of the Old Masters, in particular the landscape painting of Claude Lorrain and Jacob van Ruisdael, juxtaposing their interpretations of the natural world against his own experience of it.

Commenting on paintings that portrayed the natural landscape, Constable once wrote: ‘Nature is the fountain’s head, the source from whence all originality must spring’.

Constable’s work has been much admired by many artists, including Australian artists such as Conrad Martins, Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton and Hans Heysen. For this reason the focus exhibition Australia and Constable is be displayed alongside Constable: impressions of land, sea and sky. This supporting exhibition of works by Australian and New Zealand artists has been selected to provide visitors the opportunity to explore Constable’s influence on Australian landscape paintings.

Constable: impressions of land, sea and sky is curated by Dr Anna Gray, Assistant Director, Australian Art, and Dr John Gage, who has taught for twenty years in the Department of History of Art, Cambridge University, is a fellow of the British Academy and recently worked on an exhibition of Constable for the Grand Palais in Paris. The exhibition is accompanied by a full-colour catalogue with essays from renowned Constable Scholars.

Significant education and public programs accompany the exhibition, including a Constable Symposium on Saturday 8 April with International and Australian speakers addressing the art of John Constable.

This exhibition was made possible by Art Indemnity Australia, an Australian Government program through which the Commonwealth acts as insurer in case of any loss or damage to an indemnified work of art. Without Art indemnity Australia, the high cost of commercial insurance would prohibit that major exhibition from touring to Australia.

Admission: $15 Adults, $10 Members/Conc.
Audio Tour: $7Adults , $5 Members/Conc.

Developed by the National Gallery of Australia in partnership with the
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa


For further information please contact
Alix Fiveash, Marketing and Communications
Todd Hayward, Marketing & Communications
phone +61 2 6240 6700


Supported by


Art Indemnity spaceqantas freightspacechannel seven



Art Gallery of New South Wales
National Gallery of Victoria

Musee du Louvre, Paris

New Zealand
Dunedin Art Gallery, Dunedin
Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington,

United Kingdom
The British Museum, London
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
TATE, London
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
The National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh
Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, Cardiff
Manchester City Art Galleries, Manchester
Royal Academy of Arts, London
Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, Birmingham
National Portrait Gallery, London
Leeds Museums and Galleries, City Art Gallery, Leeds

United States of America
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven
The Frick Collection, New York
Detroit Institute of the Arts, Detroit
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia