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“He has been here and fired a gun”: Turner, Constable and the Royal Academy

The Collection Gallery, Burlington Gardens, Royal Academy of Arts

12 Jan — 31 Mar 2019

See two legendary works of art reunited in this focused display in the Collection Gallery, and judge for yourself who stole the show at the Summer Exhibition of 1832 – was it JMW Turner or John Constable?

Artistic rivalries are nothing new. Matisse and Picasso. Bacon and Freud. But the rivalry of our most famous RA Schools graduates, Turner and Constable, was never more fraught than on the eve of the Summer Exhibition in 1832. The story goes that when Turner saw his cool-toned seascape Helvoetsluys hung next to Constable’s scarlet-flecked Thames scene The Opening of Waterloo Bridge, he was piqued by the prospect of being upstaged. So in a retaliatory move, he planted a single daub of red in the sea of his own canvas, later finessing it to look like a buoy bobbing in the choppy seas.

When Constable saw what Turner had done, he declared: “He has been here and fired a gun.”

The episode, first recorded in 1860 by Charles Robert Leslie, features prominently in Mike Leigh’s biographical drama Mr Turner (2014). The two pictures will be reunited in this special display in our Collection Gallery.

12 January — 31 March 2019

Daily 10am – 6pm


The Collection Gallery, Burlington Gardens, Royal Academy of Arts