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Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Ground

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1823 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    John Constable, born 1776 - died 1837 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Paintings, Room 87, The Edwin and Susan Davies Galleries, case WEST WALL

Object Type
Landscape painting in oils steadily became more popular during the 19th century. John Constable and his contemporary J.M.W. Turner take credit for establishing landscape as a significant subject. Until then, history paintings had been considered more important, but increasingly naturalistic paintings of picturesque views of the British landscape appealed to a wider section of the art-buying public.

Dr John Fisher, Bishop of Salisbury, commissioned this painting in 1820. He and his family were some of Constable's closest friends and the artist taught one of his daughters. There has been some confusion over the identities of the figures in the painting but they are now thought to be the Bishop and his wife at the gate, and the figure a little further down the path, one of their daughters, probably Dolly. Constable had made a series of sketches before starting work on the canvas, and after it had been exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1823, he was asked to make a smaller version and a full-scale replica.

Subjects Depicted
The painting embodies the full range of qualities of a quintessentially British landscape painting - the clouds, trees, a water meadow, cattle drinking at the edge of the pasture and the glorious architecture of a medieval cathedral - but all on a human scale. Paintings like this one have so conditioned our view of rural Britain that it is now difficult to imagine a time when the countryside and country life were not held in such high regard.

Physical description

Painting of Salisbury Cathedral from The Bishop's Ground, with cattle, some drinking from a pond, sheltered by tall trees, and with a man and woman walking along a path on the left hand side. Oil on canvas.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1823 (made)


John Constable, born 1776 - died 1837 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

Signed and inscribed, lower left; the inscription is no longer legible.


Height: 87.6 cm estimate, Width: 111.8 cm estimate, Height: 124 cm framed, Width: 150 cm framed, Depth: 17.5 cm framed

Object history note

Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857. Painted by John Constable RA (born in East Bergholt, Suffolk, 1776, died in London, 1837)

Historical context note

In 1823 Constable's chief exhibit at the Royal Academy was 'Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Grounds' (No. 254 [FA 33] in this Catalogue). He visited Fisher in August (see Nos. 256 [281-1888] and 257 [354-1888]) and stayed with Sir George Beaumont at Coleorton from the last week of October until the end of November (see Nos. 259-262 [835-1888, 815-1888, 266-1888, 356-1888]).

[G Reynolds, 1973, p. 156]

Descriptive line

Oil painting by John Constable depicting Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire. Great Britain, 1823.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Baker, Malcolm, and Brenda Richardson (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.
Parris, Leslie and Fleming-Williams, Ian. Constable London : The Tate Gallery, 1991
Gray, Anne and John Gage, Constable: impressions of land, sea and sky, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2006
Graham Reynolds, Catalogue of the Constable Collection, London: HMSO, 1973, pp. 155-164
Evans, M., with N. Costaras and C. Richardson, John Constable. Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A, 2011, p. 22, fig. 17.
Timothy Wilcox, Constable and Salisbury. The Soul of Landscape London: Scala Publishers Ltd, 2011. ISBN: 978 1 85759 678 6.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
No landscape paintings seem more British than Constable's. They are apparently presented with great directness and simplicity. In fact, they were carefully constructed images of an idealised rural life created for urban viewers and patrons. This painting was shown at the Royal Academy in London in 1823. Constable considered it 'the most difficult subject in landscape I ever had on my easel'. [27/03/2003]


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Pond; Landscapes (representations); Cathedral; Figures; Trees; Clouds; Cattle; Buildings


Images Online; Paintings; British Galleries; Religion; Christianity


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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