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Constable's paintings inspired by Petworth exhibited together for the first time
Hove Beach by John Constable. Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

WEST SUSSEX.- Visitors to the National Trust’s Petworth House in West Sussex will be able to enjoy an extraordinary selection of works by the great British landscape artist John Constable, never before shown together as a group.

From 11 January, a new exhibition, Constable at Petworth, brings together over 40 outstanding watercolours and drawings, made around Petworth, largely done during Constable’s visits to the house in 1834.

Although Constable is principally known as a revolutionary exponent of oil-painting, Constable at Petworth reveals that later in life he was also a master of the watercolour medium.

The artworks are mainly on loan from the V&A and the British Museum, and feature alongside other major exhibits from Tate, the Royal Academy, the British Library and National Museums Liverpool.

Highlights include rarely seen views of the house and park, as well as nearby picturesque villages such as Tillington, Fittleworth and Bignor. Constable was clearly drawn to popular attractions, and the exhibition also features paintings and drawings of Chichester Cathedral, Cowdray House and Arundel Castle.

Importantly, several of the views he made in 1834 have been identified during the process of research for Constable at Petworth. For example, the V&A’s View of Downland Country has been confirmed as representing a view of the Surrey Hills from Petworth Park.

Constable was fundamentally influenced by earlier painters, and alongside the exhibition in Petworth’s refurbished modern gallery, visitors can explore two of the showrooms in the house - famously described by Constable as ‘that house of art’.

These rooms showcase paintings from the collection that the artist would have enjoyed as a guest in the great mansion, including works by Titian, Gainsborough and Turner.

Visitors also have the opportunity to join guided tours to the Old Library, which is rarely accessible to the public, and a room where major artists of the early 19th-century, such as Constable and Turner, were often invited to socialise, study and work.

Andrew Loukes, House and Collections Manager at Petworth House and curator of the exhibition says: “It’s really exciting for us to be bringing back the remarkable body of work which Constable made around Petworth. To see these pictures reunited, and in the context of the environment which inspired them is particularly special.

“Although Petworth is famous for its links with JMW Turner, it is less widely known that his great contemporary also spent time here. In fact, when Constable visited the house for the second time, in September 1834, he stayed for a fortnight – a longer period than any one of Turner’s many visits here. The forthcoming exhibition really gives us the opportunity to celebrate this important but little-known connection between Petworth and another truly great national figure.”

David Taylor, Curator of Pictures and Sculpture for the National Trust, says: “John Constable is one of our greatest and best-loved landscape painters, and the exhibition Constable at Petworth celebrates this quite extraordinary artist who revolutionised how we have seen, imagined and understood the English countryside, from the early nineteenth century to the present day.

“The exhibition, which focuses on works on paper made by Constable at and around Petworth, follows the hugely popular and successful exhibition Turner’s Sussex that was shown at Petworth at the beginning of 2013. The National Trust is actively organising more art exhibitions, including displays of Old Master and contemporary works, and Constable at Petworth will reiterate Petworth’s important contribution to this on-going programme of events.”

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