Opening June 22, 2012, Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum will be presented in the Frist Center for the Visual Arts’ Upper-Level Galleries through September 30. The exhibition explores the role of the oil sketch in the artistic practice of John Constable, a major figure in the history of landscape painting and one of the most influential British artists of all time. On display will be 85 oil sketches, watercolors, preparatory drawings and one finished painting gleaned from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s extensive collection of the artist’s work.
Focusing on two full-size oil sketches made in preparation for the paintings The Hay Wain and The Leaping Horse, the exhibition presents unique insight into the artist’s working process. “The Hay Wain is one of Constable’s most iconic paintings,” says Frist Center Associate Curator Trinita Kennedy. “The full-size oil sketch for it reveals how Constable mapped out the masses, details and tones in the next-to-final step in his sketching process before painting the final work for the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1821.”
Both The Full-Scale Study for “The Leaping Horse” and The Full-Scale Study for “The Hay Wain” have been recently cleaned for the first time since they were bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1900. The cleaning not only enhanced the vibrancy of Constable’s palette and brushwork, but also brought to light subtle differences between the two works. “It has become clear that The Leaping Horse is much more heavily worked,” explains Ms. Kennedy, “the paint is applied more thickly and there’s evidence that some of the figures have been moved and adjusted many times.

The oil sketches were never exhibited publicly in Constable’s lifetime, and Ms. Kennedy notes that it was not until many of his preliminary sketches and drawings began entering public collections in the late nineteenth century that art historians began to take notice of the artist. “These sketches are enormously important to our understanding of the artist,” she states. “It is through them that Constable’s interest and skill in rendering the transient effects of light and weather fully emerges.” The V&A now possesses the largest and most comprehensive collection of Constable’s work anywhere in the world and, as a result, is able to provide an intimate view of the artist’s creative process throughout his career.

This exhibition aims to introduce Constable to a wider audience since, while there have been many important exhibitions of his work in the United States and his paintings can be found in major American museums, he is still not as well known here as he is in Britain. “A household name, Constable is held dear to the British public,” says Kim Jameson, Frist Center Educator for Public Programs and England native. “The British government named the artist’s homestead area of Dedham—which features heavily in his compositions—an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,’ ensuring that the legacy and beauty of the landscape that we see in his paintings remains intact for future generations.”
The Frist Center is one of only two venues in the United States to host Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria & Albert Museum. The exhibition travelled through Estonia, Germany and Belgium before being exhibited at the Princeton University Art Museum where it will open March 17, 2012. The Frist Center will be the exhibition’s final presentation before it returns to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The catalogue for this exhibition was published by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Exhibition Credit
Exhibition organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Sponsor Acknowledgement
This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Related Public Programs

Friday, June 22
6:30 p.m.
Curator’s Perspective: “A Conservative Revolutionary: John Constable and Art History” Presented by Dr. Mark Evans, senior curator of paintings at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Frist Center Auditorium
Free with purchase of gallery admission

This lecture contrasts John Constable’s ideas on the history of landscape painting, as revealed by lectures he gave in 1833 and 1836, with critics’ shocked responses to his apparent lack of finish and disregard for formal decorum. It surveys Constable’s posthumous international celebrity as a precursor of the Impressionists, or even a prophet of photography (the daguerreotype was invented 2 years after his death). Ironically, reverence for the old masters seems to have furnished the mainspring of Constable’s own revolutionary break with the conventions of past art.

John Constable (1776-1837) is generally recognized, along with J.M.W. Turner, as England’s greatest landscape painter. In 1888, Constable’s last surviving daughter gave the Victoria and Albert Museum in London his remaining studio contents, making it the principal collection of the artist’s work.

Friday, July 6
7:00 p.m.
ARTini: Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum

Meet at exhibition entrance
Free with purchase of gallery admission

Are you curious about art? Do you want to learn more about the content and concepts behind an artist’s work? If you answered yes to either of those questions, then the ARTini program is for you! ARTinis are designed for everyone—from the novice to the connoisseur—and include informal and insightful conversations that offer a deeper understanding of one or two works of art in an exhibition.

Join Kim Jameson, educator for public programs at the Frist Center, as she leads an informal conversation about some of the works included in the exhibition Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Please note: This program is offered again on Tuesday, July 10 at noon. It is free with gallery admission, and visitors are asked to meet at the entrance to the exhibition.

About the Frist Center
Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., is an art exhibition center dedicated to presenting the finest visual art from local, regional, U.S. and international sources in a program of changing exhibitions. The Frist Center’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery features interactive stations relating to Frist Center exhibitions. Gallery admission to the Frist Center is free for visitors 18 and younger and to Frist Center members. Frist Center admission is $10.00 for adults and $7.00 for seniors, military and college students with ID. College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5–9 p.m. Discounts are offered for groups of 10 or more with advance reservation by calling (615) 744-3247.The Frist Center is open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. and Sundays, 1–5:30 p.m., with the Frist Center Café opening at noon. Additional information is available by calling (615) 244-3340 or by visiting our Web site at

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