John Constable - The Hay Wain

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The Hay Wain (landscape: noon)
John Constable (British, 1776-1837)
Oil on canvas, 130,5 cm × 185,5 cm (51.2 in × 72.8 in)
National Gallery, London

While Turner, with greater gifts, was transforming the "beauty spots" of Europe, Constable was teaching us all to realise that our own countryside could be taken exactly as it is, and yet become more precious to us”.
Kenneth Clark

John Constable is, along with J.M.W. Turner, the pinnacle of English landscape painting. Unlike Turner, who was an ambitious painter who traveled across Europe in search of new landscapes, Constable devoted all his efforts to depict the English countryside, without any artifice or idealization. Today, the area around Dedham Valley, Suffolk (where he painted most of his works) is sometimes called "Constable country. "

“The Hay Wain” is probably Constable’s most famous work. It shows a typical rural scene in the River Stour, with two men driving an old hay wain. “There is nothing ugly; I never saw an ugly thing in my life (…) light, shade, and perspective will always make it beautiful”, said Constable, for whom the old and dilapidated wagon deserves as much attention as the mighty oaks on the left side of the painting.

Constable always paid special attention to the representation of the sky. "The Hay Wain" shows a remarkable summer sky with stormy clouds. This sky is even more striking in the sketch of the painting (exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London), much admired by Venturi.

“The Hay Wain” failed to sell when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1821, but it caused a sensation when it was shown at the Paris Salon three years later. The great French Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix expressed his admiration for the painting, and even the French government was interested in its acquisition.

G. Fernández -

Willy Lott's Cottage

Image of Willy Lott's Cottage, the 16th-century cottage featured in John Constable's "The Hay Wain". Photography by Robert Edwards.

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