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Michael Angelo Rooker, A.R.A., The Gatehouse of Battle Abbey, Sussex, 1792. Pencil and watercolour on wove paper, 41.80 x 59.70 cm. Photo: © Royal Academy of Arts, London. 

LONDON.- This December an exhibition of works by the three towering figures of English landscape painting, John Constable RA, Thomas Gainsborough RA and JMW Turner RA and their contemporaries, opened in the John Madejski Fine Rooms and the Weston Rooms. Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape explores the development of the British School of Landscape Painting through the display of 120 works of art, comprising paintings, prints, books and archival material. 

Since the foundation of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768, its Members included artists who were committed to landscape painting. The exhibition draws on the Royal Academy’s Collection to underpin the shift in landscape painting during the 18th and 19th centuries. From Founder Member Thomas Gainsborough and his contemporaries Richard Wilson and Paul Sandby, to JMW Turner and John Constable, these landscape painters addressed the changing meaning of ‘truth to nature’ and the discourses surrounding the Beautiful, the Sublime and the Picturesque. 

The changing style is represented by the generalised view of Gainsborough’s works and the emotionally charged and sublime landscapes by JMW Turner to Constable’s romantic scenes infused with sentiment. Highlights include Gainsborough’s Romantic Landscape (c.1783), and a recently acquired drawing that was last seen in public in 1950. Constable’s two great landscapes of the 1820s, The Leaping Horse (1825) and Boat Passing a Lock (1826) will be hung alongside Turner’s brooding diploma work, Dolbadern Castle (1800). 

To contextualise the landscape paintings of Constable, Gainsborough and Turner, a number of paintings by their 18th- century contemporaries Richard Wilson, Michael Angelo Rooker and Paul Sandby are exhibited with prints made after the 17th- century masters whose work served as models: Claude, Poussin, Gaspard Dughet and Salvator Rosa. Letters by Gainsborough, Turner’s watercolour box and Constable’s palette also are on display, bringing their artistic practice to life. 

Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape has been organised by the Royal Academy of Arts. The exhibition is curated by MaryAnne Stevens, Director of Academic Affairs, Nick Savage, Head of Collections & Library, Helen Valentine, Curator of Paintings & Sculpture and Andrew Wilton, with Annette Wickham and Helena Bonett. 

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John Constable R.A., The Leaping Horse, 1825. Oil on canvas, 142 x 187.3 cm. Photo: John Hammond © Royal Academy of Arts, London.

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J.M.W. Turner RA, ‘Dolbadern Castle’, 1800. Oil on canvas, 1194 x 902 mm. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Limited. © Royal Academy of Arts, London

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Thomas Gainsborough RA, ‘Romantic Landscape’, ca. 1783. Oil on canvas,1537 x 1867 mm. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Limited. © Royal Academy of Arts, London