John Constable (1776 - 1837) - England Painting of the Week - The Hay Wain
John Constable was an English Romantic painter. He was known mainly for his landscape paintings.
Painters of the Romantic movement, which was in the late 1700’s to mid-1800’s, emphasized emotion and the senses, and most of all, nature.
The Hay Wain by Constable
Our painting of the week is John Constable’s The Hay Wain. (1821). A hay wain is a type of horse-drawn cart, which can be seen in the water near the cottage. Across the meadow in the far distance on the right, is a group of haymakers at work. The Hay Wain is one of the greatest and most popular of all English paintings.
YouTube video - The Haywain by Constable - monty's minutes (1:42 min.)
YouTube video - Michael Portillo talks about Constable and tours the present-day site of the painting, The Hay Wain (6:08 min.)
Dedham Vale by Constable
Born in Suffolk, England, Constable is known mainly for his landscape paintings of Dedham Vale, the area surrounding his home. That region is now referred to as "Constable Country".
Constable loved the scenes of his surroundings and wrote, "I should paint my own places best.” His largest six-foot paintings honor the working countryside where he had grown up.
YouTube video - Flatford Mill and the current surroundings related to Constable's paintings of the Stour Valley (6:42 min)
Constable’s painting is said to be part of the British Romantic movement of art. Romantic art stressed emotion, freedom, the senses, and individual imagination. Romantic paintings typically used nature to express emotion.
Landscapes had once only been painted as the backgrounds for portraits, but they became much more respected as an art form due to Constable.
YouTube video - Paintings by Constable (3:29 min.)
This quote from Constable told what he believed about painting landscapes: “No two days are alike, nor even two hours; neither were there ever two leaves of a tree alike since the creation of the world.” Believing that, Constable tried to paint the way a scene looked at a particular moment. He knew the same scene would appear different at any other time of day or year, such as changes in the light, the color of the atmosphere, or the movement of clouds. He wrote that a sketch represents “nothing but one state of mind – that which you were in at the time.”
Constable loved the country. He said, “The sound of water escaping from mill dams, willows, old rotten planks, slimy posts and brickwork, I love such things. These scenes made me a painter.”
YouTube video with stills - A teacher tells about Constable's paintings and the time period in which he lived[the last painting is by Turner] (3:15 min.)
Tea tray with Constable painting
Biscuit tin with Constable painting
Although Constable was a talented painter, he was never financially successful. His work was embraced in France, where he sold more works than in his native England. Now his paintings are among the most popular and valuable in British art. Constable’s landscapes have appeared on more biscuit tins, jigsaw puzzles, and tea trays than any other artist. People admire his paintings today in museums, where they appear as fresh as the day they were painted.