Reflections on Constable’s Cloud Studies: Paintings by Mark Leonard
A suite of paintings that respond to John Constable’s cloud studies and small landscapes was installed in the galleries of the permanent collection on the fourth floor. Mark Leonard, a renowned restorer with a long history of treating paintings, including works by John Constable, created eleven paintings in direct dialogue with Constable works in the Center’s collection. For this project, Leonard turned away from his usual practice of caring for and restoring paintings by other artists and instead set himself the challenge of creating his own autonomous works of art. As someone who has spent decades looking at and studying the work of other artists, stroke by stroke and layer by layer, Leonard searched for the underlying geometries, or the “natural framework” in Constable’s seemingly unstructured paintings of sky and landscape. The resulting paintings were displayed in a one-to-one relationship with works by Constable that inspired Leonard. This unique installation allowed visitors to study the Constables in a new light, and also to appreciate Leonard’s rigorously structured and highly detailed paintings.
After serving as an Assistant Conservator of Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mark Leonard spent twenty-six years at The J. Paul Getty Museum, where he was named Head of the Paintings Conservation Department. While in Los Angeles, Leonard treated paintings not only from the Getty’s own collection, but for an array of international museums, including works by artists ranging from Rembrandt and Velázquez to Reynolds and Renoir. Between 2009 and 2012 he took a hiatus from his work as a restorer to concentrate on his art. As Constable did with his cloud studies, Leonard spent about two years on the project for the Center. He is currently Chief Conservator at the Dallas Museum of Art.