Constable painting welcomed home

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The Independent Online

A John Constable masterpiece, unseen in Britain for a hundred years, will be the centrepiece of an exhibition opening tomorrow at the site where it was painted in Essex.

A John Constable masterpiece, unseen in Britain for a hundred years, will be the centrepiece of an exhibition opening tomorrow at the site where it was painted in Essex.

Wivenhoe Park has been lent to the show at the University of Essex by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the first time it has been outside America since 1900.

Constable painted Wivenhoe Park and two other works, Engelfield Hall and The Quarters, while he was courting his fiancée, Maria Bicknell. The commission paid for the wedding. Wivenhoe Park was later auctioned to an American who donated it to the Washington gallery.

The Essex University gallery at Wivenhoe Park, near Colchester, spent two years tracking paintings and drawings for the exhibition, which concentrates on work Constable did while living at Wivenhoe Park in the summer of 1816.

Jessica Kenny, director of the gallery, said: "We have been fortunate to get the working drawings. They show trees in different places and the house further up by the banks of the lake. He had moved things around to make a more pleasing picture.

"What we would like is for visitors to come and look at the pictures and drawings and then go into the grounds of the university here at Wivenhoe Park and judge for themselves how accurate Constable's vision was and how the reality had changed."

The show, which cost £56,000, received two grants from the Lottery Commission and one from the university. Much of the money was spent on transportation, security, and an education officer who designed a programme to make Constable more accessible to schoolchildren in Suffolk and north Essex.

'Constable and Wivenhoe Park: Reality & Vision' is from 20 September to 18 December.

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