Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Grounds
|Dimensions||87.6 cm × 111.8 cm (34.5 in × 44.0 in)|
|Location||Victoria and Albert Museum, London|
Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Grounds is an 1823 painting by the nineteenth-century landscape painter John Constable (1776–1837). This image of Salisbury Cathedral, one of England's most famous medieval churches, is one of his most celebrated works, and was commissioned by one of his closest friends, John Fisher, The Bishop of Salisbury.
Constable visited Salisbury in 1820 and made a series of oil sketches of the cathedral, which served as the model for this composition. The artist selected a viewpoint from the bishop's garden and included figures of Dr. Fisher and his wife at the bottom left. Following its exhibition at the 1823 Royal Academy, Constable observed: "My Cathedral looks very well....It was the most difficult subject in Landscape I ever had upon my Easel. I have not flinched at the work of the windows, buttresses, &c. - but I have as usual made my escape in the Evanescence of the Chiaro-Oscuro". His patron took exception to the dark cloud over the cathedral, and when he commissioned a smaller replica, requested "a more serene sky".
The painting embodies the full range of qualities of a quintessentially British landscape painting – the clouds, trees, a water meadow, cattle drinking at the edge of the pasture and the glorious architecture of a medieval cathedral – but all on a human scale. Paintings like this one have so conditioned our view of rural Britain that it is now difficult to imagine a time when the countryside and country life were not held in such high regard.
A version of the painting also resides at the Frick Collection in New York City. It is slightly different in that it shows different weather and hence light. Whereas the London version depicts the cathedral with an overcast sky, the version in the Frick shows the cathedral with a clear, bright sky.
There is an earlier, homonymous version (1821-1822) of this painting at São Paulo Museum of Art in São Paulo. It is said that Fisher, seeing its sombre and grave colors, disliked it and asked for a happier, lighter one.
- Jackson, Anna (ed.) (2001). V&A: A Hundred Highlights. V&A Publications.