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John Constable’s cathedral masterpiece saved for the nation after £23m Tate deal


One of the great masterpieces of British art will remain in Britain and be displayed in five galleries across the country after the Tate secured Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows in a £23.1m deal.

The 1831 oil went on show at the Tate Britain following the purchase brokered with the family of the late Lord Ashton of Hyde – which includes tax concessions, making it the equivalent of a £40m sale on the open market. Lord Ashton’s family negotiated with the Tate for a year-and-a-half to ensure the painting, previously on long-term loan to The National Gallery in London, remained in the UK.

Described as “quintessentially British”, the artwork is the penultimate painting in a series of monumental “six footer” canvases

by Constable, pictured left, which are widely considered to be his most important work.

“This is a painting of such supreme importance that had it not been possible for a gallery in this country to acquire it, there would undoubtedly have been institutions abroad that would have wanted to bring it into their collections,” said Tate director Nicholas Serota, who thanked the Ashton family for their generosity and co-operation.

“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.” Pivotal in the sale was the £15.8m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the largest grant ever awarded by the fund for an art acquisition.