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A Reassessment of the Solar Geometry of Constable’s Salisbury Rainbow

Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831 John Constable 1776-1837 Purchased by Tate with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Manton Foundation and the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation) and Tate Members in partnership with Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales, Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service, National Galleries of Scotland; and Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum 2013

A Reassessment of the Solar Geometry of Constable’s Salisbury Rainbow

Professor John Thornes (member 26) is an expert on the depiction of weather in art. He has recently had an essay published in Tate Magazine in which he solves a puzzle about the rainbow depicted by the English landscape artist, John Constable, in his painting Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows. Professor Thornes’s work is a great demonstration of how science can inform art and vice-versa.

View a PDF of “A Reassessment of the Solar Geometry of Constable’s Salisbury Rainbow” by Professor John E Thornes.

1 Comment
  • Catherine Howard avatar


    April 3, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    What a fascinating article! It is intriguing to learn that Constable thought painting could be an extension of science, while still appreciating the expressive power it had. That he was willing to add a rainbow to honor the memory of his friend, even if it was contraindicated by the physics of light he understood so well, is a moving tribute to his flexibility.

    Thank you, Prof. Thornes!

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