W. G. (William George) Constable (1887-1976) was a museum curator and art historian who worked in England and Boston.
Born in Derby, England, Constable studied for the bar at Cambridge University, but was encouraged to pursue art over law by the Lord Chancellor who told him that law would be too strenuous after a two year convalescence from gassing during World War I. For three years, he studied at the Slade School and the Bartlett School of Architecture. In 1923, he joined the National Gallery of London where he became the Assistant Director in 1929. In 1930, he accepted the first Director's position at the newly formed Courtauld Institute, where he worked to develop one of the first programs on art history. In 1938, Constable became Curator of Paintings at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and worked there until his retirement in 1957.
Throughout his career as an arts administrator, Constable remained an accomplished lecturer and held appointments as the Slade Professor of Art at Cambridge (1933-1936), Ryerson Lecturer at Yale University (1940), and the Lowell Lecturer at the Lowell Insitute (1958). As a researcher and art historian, he published a steady stream of essays on European and American art connoisseurship, and authored over ten scholarly books, including The Painter's Workshop (1953), Richard Wilson (1953), and Canaletto (1962), the definitive work on the Venetian master.
Constable was a trusted arts advisor and, in this capacity, worked for the Wadsworth Atheneum from 1943-1945. He also worked closely with Lord Beaverbrook to establish the National Gallery of Canada and later consulted for Sotheby's and the U. S. Internal Revenue Service.
In the years leading to World War II, Constable served as an advisor to the American Defense Harvard Group and was later appointed to the Commission for the Protection of Artistic and Historic Monuments in Europe (the Roberts Commission) by President Roosevelt. The Roberts Commission was responsible for the establishment of the U. S. Army's Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section. After the war, Constable served the U.S. government as a member of a commission responsible for the recovery of looted art work and the evaluation of the state of the arts in Germany and Italy.
After his retirement from the Boston Museum, Constable continued to research and write, and also served as president of the International Institute of Conservation (1958-1960) and the Renaissance Society of America (1959-1961). From 1957 to 1966, he worked on behalf of Christie's auction house, where he met with prospective clients and provided preliminary valuations of private art works and collections.
On February 4, 1976, Constable died in Cambridge, Massachusetts from natural causes.