10 May—1 September 2024

National Treasures: Constable in Bristol “Truth to Nature”

The Hay Wain by John Constable is coming to Bristol Museum & Art Gallery on loan from The National Gallery. Constable’s iconic landscape will be the centre piece in an exhibition “Truth to Nature”.

2024 is the 200th anniversary of the National Gallery, London and to mark it they are sending twelve of their greatest paintings to 12 museums and art galleries in the UK. Canaletto, Vermeer, Velasquez, Botticelli, Turner and more will be on tour to Aberystwyth, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Cambridge and Newcastle. The Hay Wain is coming to Bristol, perhaps because of Bristol’s own history of landscape art.

Painted in 1821 The Hay Wain is an icon of English landscape art. It has been widely reproduced, copied, satirised and politicised.

Starting with the Hay Wain, “Truth to Nature” will explore how landscape has inspired artists from Constable to the present day. With art from Bristol Museum & Art Gallery’s extensive collection the exhibition will also include oil sketches by Constable from the Victoria & Albert Museum.  

We will contextualise Constable with an early landscape from the 1600s by Jacob van Ruisdael. “Truth to Nature” will show Constable’s influence with examples from the Bristol School and 19th century French art. We will show Modernist landscapes from the 20th century by Christopher Wood and Ivon Hitchens. Together with a conceptual land piece by Richard Long, we will show an abstract landscape by the St Ives artist Peter Lanyon.

This exhibition will examine how artists have seen the land as a place of refuge, but also as hostile to humans. We’ll also show artists’ awareness of human destruction of the land.

“Truth to Nature” will be accompanied by free exhibitions. Listening in the Dark by Maeve Brennan explores the nocturnal life of bats. Borderlands will examine the challenges of divided lands. Charlotte Prodger presents LGBT relations to nature in LHB. Ian Chamberlain’s contemporary ruins chart the Atlantic Wall. Yto Barrada’s Sleepers photographs of migrants are a stark vision of the barriers to movement across the land.

Bristol Exhibition Sponsors

With thanks to HR World, The CR Group and Maru for sponsoring the Bristol exhibition.

With thanks

This exhibition has been made possible with thanks to The National Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

V & A

Book tickets

Full price (adults 25+)– £12 weekdays, £13 weekends
Concessions* – £9.50
Art Fund members – £8
Under 16s – Free

Ticket prices include a voluntary donation to Bristol Museums Development Trust (charity no. 1137777)

*Concessions available for people over 65, NHS staff, students and 16-24s (except Wednesdays – see below), unemployed people and disabled people. Carers go free. ID required for concession tickets.

Students and 16-24 year olds get 50% off a full price ticket on Wednesdays with a valid ID.

Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Last entry is one hour before closing.

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Additional information

Higher Light Level Viewings
Between 10am and 12 noon every Wednesday, the light levels will be made brighter to improve the viewing experience for visitors with visual impairments.