Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows

Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows by John Constable. 1831. Oil on canvas, 1800 x 2187 x 105 mm. Courtesy of Tate Britain Accession no. T13896. (Purchased by Tate with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Manton Foundation, the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation) and Tate Members in partnership with Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales, Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service, National Galleries of Scotland, and The Salisbury Museum 2013). Click on image to enlarge it.

Tate Britain Online Commentary by Frances Fowle (2000)

Salisbury was the home of Constable's patron, Bishop Fisher and his nephew - the artist's great friend and adviser - John Fisher. The magnificent cathedral at Salisbury was the stimulus for some of Constable's most moving landscapes. This was to be his final and most brooding image of the cathedral Constable had clearly discussed the subject of his next picture with John Fisher, who wrote to the artist, on 9 August 1829, 'I am quite sure the "Church under a cloud" is the best subject you can take. It will be an amazing advantage to go every day & look afresh at your materials drawn from nature herself' (quoted in Parris & Fleming-Williams 1991, p.361).

The most striking and Romantic feature of the painting, the enigmatic rainbow, is also missing from the study. Typical of Constable's oil studies, the picture is executed with tremendous freedom, yet with an eye for composition and a varied palette. The overall effect is one of a fresh, breezy day, the rainclouds clearing away into the distance, to reveal blue patches of sky. The dark mass of trees on the left guides the eye towards the spire of the cathedral, which reaches up towards the light. In the foreground the activities of the carthorses and the man with his dog are highlighted with bold touches of red and yellow, while flecks of white pigment enliven the entire surface of the canvas.

Recommended Reading

Leslie Parris, The Tate Gallery Constable Collection. London 1981, pp.140-4, no.36, reproduced p. 141, in colour.

Leslie Parris and Ian Fleming-Williams. Constable. exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1991, pp.360-68, reproduced p.362.

Last modified 26 June 2020