John Constable was one of Britain's finest landscape painters and this major exhibition at the V&A charts his evolution and the influences that guided him towards perfecting his technique.
This show takes the visitor through his journey of learning from the greats that preceded him — how he copied Da Vinci's techniques, made copies of works by Rubens and collected works by Dutch Masters. By learning from past heralded artists, he was able to develop his own style.
Even his sketches show his mastery as dark clouds roll in over Weymouth bay and the sky over Hampstead shines brightly as the sun sets. In an excellent 'moonlight landscape' a fire by the shores of a lake crackles with intensity, creating shadows and causing the surrounding trees to glow red.
The show builds to its two final rooms containing many of his masterpieces including The Hay Wain, The Leaping Horse and Salisbury Cathedral from the meadows.
The exhibition makes a few references to his rivalry with Turner, which is fitting considering both have exhibitions on at the moment, and though the two artists were often at odds with each other they developed their styles in very different ways. Turner can be seen as the revolutionary, with his later works being ahead of their time, while Constable was a refiner of painting — building on the old masters before him and slowly evolving landscape painting.
This is an impeccably curated and well documented exhibition filled with many of Constable's greatest works, but Constable was a traditionalist at heart and his paintings don't have the wider appeal of the late Turner works over at Tate Britain.
Constable: The Making of a Master is on at V&A until 11 January 2015. Tickets are £14 for adults, concessions available.
For more great art to see in London, see our September listings.