Turner Versus Constable: Who Won?

At the end of September I was visiting my cousins and their families down in London for a long weekend, and I had the pleasure of fitting in two art exhibitions that were on.

The first one was the “Late Turner: Painting Set Free” exhibition at Tate Britain that I attended on the Friday.

The second one was the “Constable: The Making of a Master” exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum on the Monday. This one I saw with my friend Amy Walker from Velvet Mutineer, London. I usually go to exhibitions on my own, so it was a fun experience to go with someone else, and to discuss Constable’s work whilst going round it.

As some of you know, JMW Turner is one of my all-time favourite painters and his work inspires and influences mine.

Turner Sunset over a lake at Tate BritainTurner’s sunset over a lake, tate britain


Constable is a painter that I’d heard of but I knew only a little about him, and definitely not as much as Turner. Amy kindly sent me an online article that described the rivalry between the two, which was really useful to read before hitting the exhibitions.

So, who won? Whose work did I prefer?

Well, they were two different experiences, and to be honest, it would be unfair to compare the two in terms of whose work was better.

My experience of the Turner exhibition was more feeling-based, emotional, heart-centred. It excited me, it resonated with me.

I felt at home amongst his use of colour, light and brush strokes.

I was thrilled when one of the first paintings I saw was the one on which I had based one of my own paintings! It was as if Turner had taken my breath away, much like the feelings you get when you fall in love.

My experience of the Constable exhibition was more mentally stimulating, for want of a better description. Quite a few of his paintings were accompanied by his sketches – it showed his creative process and I discovered value in that.

Constable VA postcard

constable postcard from v&a museum


His work gave me ideas of how-to: how to develop my work, how to expand my own creative process, how to deepen it. It felt more like a mental experience, a mental understanding. I experienced a few AHA’s.

What’s more, what I enjoyed discovering about Constable were his Cloud Studies – he apparently did 50 of them. That sparked some ideas for me!

Just like I find it essential to connect head and heart, I feel these two exhibitions appealed to me in those two ways: head – Constable; heart – Turner. What better way to learn and deepen my experience, knowledge and understanding; particularly, for my own creative work.

My spirit was there, too, of course, soaking up all the fun and joy of my experiences. I felt I got the best of all worlds.

When was the last time you visited an art exhibition that moved you? What inspired action did you take as a result?



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