Conference: Rereading Constable: Letters, Life and Art

Alice Read's picture
December 2, 2022
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, British History / Studies, Humanities

Book tickets

  • 2 December 2022
  • 9:30 – 7:00 pm
  • A one-day conference at the Paull Mellon Centre and online

'In-Person' tickets sold out - if you would like to be added to the waiting list please email
'Online' tickets still available

How do artists’ letters articulate professional and personal affiliations, embody networks and forge allegiances? What role has letter writing played in artistic self-fashioning? In what ways do letters serve as a form of art-historical evidence, and help us understand works of art themselves?

R.B. Beckett’s multi-volume edition of Constable’s correspondence, published in six volumes by the Suffolk Records Society (1962–68), has long been recognised as an invaluable source for scholars working on the artist, and for all those interested in British art and culture in the late Georgian period. The published correspondence shows the painter to have been a shrewd, skilled writer, versed in a variety of literary, scientific and biblical texts. His correspondents were, in turn, often highly articulate writers, including many family members, and many more with very different characters and backgrounds. Often utilised by art historians, the correspondence has more recently attracted the interest of scholars interested in the literary character and rhetorical conventions of nineteenth-century correspondence, who have subjected Constable’s letters to new kinds of critical scrutiny. This event will build on this important work, exploring Romantic art, culture and society through the prism provided by the landscape painter’s correspondence.

The central structuring concept of this interdisciplinary conference is that speakers will focus on a single letter written by the artist, his correspondents or other contemporary figures whose work, life or letters can be understood in productive relation to Constable himself. These individual letters will be used to open up new questions and arguments about Constable’s life, practice and identity as a painter, and about the wider artistic, literary, religious and political cultures of his era.

Rereading Constable: Letters, Life and Art has been organised as part of the PMC’s Generation Landscape research project. The conference is being convened by Stephen Daniels and Mark Hallett.


We are offering up to five bursaries to support individuals who may not otherwise be able to attend the conference. Bursaries will cover the ticket price, travel and some expenses, including childcare. If you would like to be considered for a bursary please email with Rereading Constable Bursary in the subject field, outlining your request for a supported place by 10am Friday 4 November 2022.

Conference Programme

9.30am–10.00am:Introduction by Mark Hallett (Paul Mellon Centre) and Stephen Daniels (University of Nottingham)

10.00am–11.00am: Session 1: Chair: Stephen Daniels

Alexandra Harris (University of Birmingham)
New friends, new scenes: Constable in the Arun Valley

Amy Concannon (Tate Britain)
Strengthening ties and gaining esteem: Constable writes to Wordsworth, 15 June, 1836

11.00am–11.30amTea/coffee break

11.30am–12.30pm: Session 2: Chair: Martin Postle (Paul Mellon Centre)

Emma Roodhouse (Art Curator and Researcher)
An evening’s amusement: Portraits, writing and other oddments from the Mason family album

Sarah Cove (The Constable Research Project)
A Regency “nip-and-tuck”: Constable’s Treslove portraits rediscovered

12.30pm–1.30pm: Lunch (provided by PMC)

1.30pm–2.30pm: Session 3: Chair: Mark Hallett

Morna O’Neill (Wake Forest University)
John Constable, David Lucas and artistic identity

Katharine Martin (V&A and the University of Sussex)
Translations and fraught relations: English landscape and the language of collaboration

2.30pm–2.45pm: Comfort break

2.45pm–3.45pm: Session 4: Chair: Sarah Victoria Turner (Paul Mellon Centre)

Gillian Forrester (Independent Scholar)
“Solemnity, not gaiety”: Language and the production of meaning in Constable’s English Landscape Scenery

Elenor Ling (The Fitzwilliam Museum)
The “definition of our book”: John Constable, David Lucas and their English Landscape

3.45pm–4.15pm: Tea/coffee break

4.15pm–5.15pm: Session 5: Chair: Sria Chatterjee (Paul Mellon Centre)

Rhian Addison McCreanor (University of York and Tate Britain)
Repairing the house with a thorough painting: Reimagining 63 Charlotte Street

Nicholas Robbins (University College London)
The Life Academy and the origins of landscape

5.15pm–5.55pm: Panel discussion
Participants: Stephen Daniels (University of Nottingham), Martin Myrone (Paul Mellon Centre), Trev Broughton (University of York) and Timothy Wilcox (Independent Scholar)

5.55pm–6.00pm: Mark Hallett, Closing remarks and thanks

6.00pm–7.00pm: Drinks reception


Contact Info: 

'In-Person' tickets sold out - if you would like to be added to the waiting list please email
'Online' tickets still available