Constable spectacular

w290Huge landscape videos greet you at the new John Constable exhibition which tracks how the artist learnt his craft. Constable grew up in Suffolk and his life as an artist was kickstarted when he met Sir George Beaumont in 1795. Art collector Beaumont encouraged him to copy works from his collection which included paintings by Raphael, Rubens and Claude Lorrain, and so starts the exhibition. It is really fascinating to see the evolution of Constable’s work, brilliantly curated by Mark Evans, with the originals by Old Masters like Jacob van Ruisdael hanging side by side with Constable’s early mimicry. The exhibition seeks to show how Constable’s great paintings were created. In the rooms that follow Constable’s work moves into nature, he makes study after study of clouds and trees on sketching trips to the Lake District and Suffolk. All the copying and sketching leads to the show-stopper rooms with 6ft canvases of the Hay Wain, Salisbury Cathedral and the fabulous The Leaping Horse. In the last precious room there is the gem of three paintings including Study of the Trunk of an Elm Tree (pic) which was inspired by a chalk sketch of an oak tree by Claude Lorrain. To its right is a wonderful drawing by Lucian Freud which he created after seeing Constable’s elm on a visit to the V&A. Artistic genius is handed through the generations. Better take your sketchbook. Constable: The Making of a Master, 20 September-11 January. vam

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