One of the greatest masterpieces of British art, Constables Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831, has been secured for the British public through major grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund (£15.8 million), the Art Fund (£1 million), a very substantial donation from The Manton Foundation, and Tate Members.
The acquisition is part of a ground-breaking new partnership, called Aspire, between five national and regional galleries: Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales; the National Galleries of Scotland
; Colchester and Ipswich Museums; Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum; and Tate Britain. The partnership will enable the work, owned by Tate, to go on almost constant view in partner venues across the UK. From today it will go on view in the Constable room at Tate Britain until the end of the year before being shown at the five national and regional galleries participating in the programme.
The work has been acquired for the special price of £23.1 million with tax concessions, equivalent to an open market sale of £40 million. The acquisition has been made possible through the most generous collaboration of the children of the late Lord Ashton of Hyde and purchased through the London fine art agents Robert Holden Ltd. The painting had previously been on view at The National Gallery on long-term loan since 1983.
Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows is one of a series of monumental six-footer canvases painted by the artist. This was the scale he reserved for his finest compositions, the painting she wished to make a great impact in the crowded, competitive hang of the Royal Academy exhibitions. This work is the most visually spectacular of all the six footers, the most loaded in meaning and the one of which he was most proud. Constable called it The Great Salisbury and wrote I am told I got it to look better than anything I have yet done.
Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate said: Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows is one of the great masterpieces of British art. I am extremely grateful to the owners who have worked with us while we have raised the funds to ensure the painting remains in the UK. I would also like to thank the National Gallery for their support and the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Manton Foundation, the Art Fund and Tate Members who have recognised the importance of this work and that it should enter the national collection. Through the innovative Aspire programme the work will now be widely accessible across Britain.