Constable drawings in debut exhibition

THE FIRST exhibition of John Constable's drawings opens tomorrow at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in south-east London.

No one has doubted for at least 100 years that Constable was one of the greatest British painters, but connoisseurs have not hitherto seriously rated his drawings - they tend to be tucked away in boxes at great museums and are difficult to see.

All that is about to change, by courtesy of a fanatical collector - David Thomson, eldest son of Lord Thomson of Fleet.

The 83 Constable drawings in the exhibition all come from his collection and reveal that Constable was a genius with the pencil. His hedges, houses, rivers, foliage, details and distances are caught with magic twists of the pencil.

Mr Thomson, 37, first fell in love with Constable's style as a child. His father had a group of oil sketches attributed to Constable - all of which have subsequently been reattributed to other artists. He himself bought his first misattributed Constable at 17 - Constable scholarship is a nightmare because the artist had so many imitators. He bought his first genuine drawing in 1976 at the age of 19.

His agent in the early days was Charles Leggatt, son of Sir Hugh Leggatt, who ran the former Leggatt Gallery in St James's. Mr Leggatt, who is now assistant curator of the Dulwich Gallery, suggested the exhibition. He also, back in 1976, introduced Mr Thomson to the Constable scholar, Ian Fleming-Williams, who became his close friend and collaborator.

Mr Fleming-Williams, 79, was joint organiser of the last two Constable exhibitions at the Tate and is the author of several ground-breaking books on the artist. The exhibition of drawings was his idea. He has firmly excluded watercolours and oils, arguing that their colour would distract the viewer from appreciating the artist's extraordinary skill in black and white. He has written the Dulwich catalogue and says it is his last Constable publication.

Mr Thomson, in contrast, underlines that the collection is unfinished - it is nothing like what it will be in another 30 years.

He already knows what other drawings he wants - it is just a question of teasing them away from their present owners. He is good at that. Besides buying from auctions, dealers and private collectors, he has even managed to extract drawings from institutions. The Mound of Old Sarum from the South-east came from the Royal Institute of Cornwall in exchange for 'an oil painting and quite a lot of money'; The Great Alder in Leadenhall Garden was promised to the National Gallery, Washington, but Mr Thomson persuaded them to swap.

The exhibition, extended by the addition of about 30 of Mr Thomson's Constable oils, is to be shown at the Frick Collection, New York, in November, and at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, next May.

(Photograph omitted)

Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
We are all simultaneously donating to and stealing from those around us
lifeWe all need our own particular language to separate from the crowd
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments