The Constable: The Dark Side exhibition has been specially curated for The Arc by art historian Nicola Moorby and will include examples of Constable’s work across a range of media – oil, watercolour, pencil and ink – as well as an in-depth look at mezzotint, a technique reliant on the emergence of light from dark.  

Join curator and art historian Nicola Moorby for an absorbing tour of the highlights of the exhibition, along with insights into how the exhibition was brought together. 

Nicola Moorby is an independent art historian specialising in British art of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She studied at the University of York and Birkbeck College, London.


About Constable: The Dark Side

‘I live by shadows, to me shadows are realities’, wrote John Constable. If he’d had a motto, it was the Latin phrase that appears within his print publication, English Landscape Scenery, ‘Ut umbra sic vita’ - ‘Life is as a shadow’. As an artist, Constable has a reputation for being a painter of traditional ‘chocolate box’ English scenery; safe, unchallenging and sentimental. But, there was a darker side to the Suffolk master.  

This unique exhibition explores Constable’s on-going obsession with the ‘chiaroscuro’ of nature – the contrast between light and dark and the way he placed that at the heart of his exploration of landscape. It was through the interplay of light and shadow that Constable believed he could capture the movement, vitality and variety of the natural world, and also, importantly, to convey and evoke emotion. Constable was always an emotional artist and the exhibition examines some of his personal and human ‘chiaroscuro’: the challenges and tragedies present within his private life, his love for his wife and children, his professional struggles, his periodic battles with anxiety and depression, and the way the intensity of his feelings coloured and informed his work.  

The exhibition is being drawn from a small number of institutions; Gainsborough’s House, the Royal Academy, Tate and the Victoria and Albert Museum. 


Friday 11 August 2023, 45 minute tours at 10:00am, 11:30am, 1:00pm and 2:15pm

Tickets: £12.50/£10.50 concession


Image Credits: Rainstorm over the Sea, ca. 1824-1828, John Constable © Royal Academy of Arts, London; photographer: John Hammond. 

  • Rainstorm over the Sea, ca. 1824-1828, John Constable © Royal Academy of Arts, London; photographer: John Hammond.

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