V&A uncovers unknown work by John Constable
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has discovered a previously unknown work of art by the English romantic painter John Constable in its very own collection, as its staff ready for a major exhibition next year.
As they were prepping for the autumn show, which is entitled the Making of a Master, conservators Nicola Costaras and Clare Richardson saw that the Branch Hill Pond: Hampstead had been glued over a canvas lining. It is imagined that this occurred before it came into the ownership of the V&A in 1888.
Knowing that Constable often reused canvases, they decided that it was worth checking if there was anything of interest behind Branch Hill Pond and so had the work x-rayed. Their curiosity paid off because what they found was a “completely intact sketch painted on the back”.
They decided that it was imperative to examine this work further, and as luck would have it, the glue binding the canvas lining to the painting was already loose in some areas. They carefully prised it apart, astonished to find an amazing hidden gem.
Landscape with a kiln, as it is now known, is believed to have been executed sometime in 1821 or 1822 and “depicts a narrow clearing fringed by trees set against an unsettled sky, a wedge-shaped expanse of dark clouds at lower left parts to reveal a stretch of blue sky with white clouds”.
Near the front is a faded but nevertheless prominent brown cylindrical structure, very much like a kiln – hence the name it has been given – with smoke emanating from its structure.
It is a welcome addition to the V&A’s fantastic collection of Constable’s work, which it acquired through a generous gift of the artist’s daughter. This includes 92 oil sketches, 297 drawings and watercolours and three detailed sketchbooks.
The upcoming exhibition is seen as a long time coming and will, so the museum says, “reveal the hidden stories of how Constable created some of his most loved and well-known paintings”.
“It will present Constable’s work for the first time alongside the old masters of classical landscape such as Ruisdael and Claude whose compositional ideas and formal values he revered and studied in great depth,” the V&A has stated.
“On display will be such famous works as The Haywain together with the oil sketches he painted outdoors direct from nature which are widely held to be unequalled at capturing transient effects of light and atmosphere.”
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