As an art history student Amy Concannon studied some of the most famous paintings in the world. Now The University of Nottingham graduate is putting her knowledge into practice — looking after a £23m masterpiece.
As an Assistant Curator at the Tate Britain, Amy was part of the historic bid to purchase Constable’s iconic painting, Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, for the nation. Amy played a central role in petitioning for the Tate’s latest acquisition, which was bought for £23.1m from the family of Lord Ashton of Hyde. It was made possible with grants of £15.8m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £1m from the Art Fund (£1million) and a substantial donation from The Manton Foundation and Tate Members.
Amy hopes the work will capture the imagination of the British public. She said: “This was the work that Constable saw as his best, the culmination of his career, and so its acquisition for the nation will give it a renewed focus.”
A chance to save such a pivotal piece by one of the most significant British landscape painters of all time is rare. Laden with meaning and visual spectacle the painting is one of a monumental series of six-foot canvases. It will be displayed in London and throughout the country in museums in Wales, Scotland, Salisbury, and Ipswich.
Describing the painting Amy said: “It is loaded with meaning, there’s a tension in the painting’s contrast between sunlight and showers, its portrayal of urban and rural, man and nature, alongside Constable’s concerns about the power struggles in religion and politics. Constable wanted his work to be seen by as many people as possible and I am sure he would be delighted that it will remain in Britain and on permanent public display.”
Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate Britain, said: “This is a painting of such supreme importance that had it not been possible for a gallery in this country to acquire it, there would undoubtedly have been institutions abroad that would have wanted to bring it into their collections.”
Looking back to her time at Nottingham, Amy credits the History and Art History Departments with being fantastically supportive in nurturing ideas about what she wanted to do as a career and the Careers Service with pressing home the importance of work experience. The specific modules she took also helped to develop her fascination with 18th- and early 19th-Century British art, which on graduation led to an internship with the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere.
Not only will the exhibition run throughout the country but each display will be unique to each venue, and will be complemented by an education programme which encourages audiences to learn more about this painting. The project will establish a national network for Constable Studies to promote exchange and create new opportunities for training and skills development.
The coming years will deliver more exciting projects for Assistant Curator Amy. In the long term she hopes to complete a PhD, which she hopes will help her reach her personal and professional goals.
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