john constable haywain signed
The Hay Wain was voted the second most popular painting in any British gallery, second only to Turner’s Fighting Temeraire, in a 2005 poll organised by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.  On 28 June 2013 a protester, reported to be connected with Fathers 4 Justice, glued a photograph of a young boy to the painting while it was on display at the National Gallery. The work was not permanently damaged. 
The painting measures 130.2 cm × 185.4 cm ( 51 1 ⁄4 in × 73 in). 
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The view is of the millpond at Flatford on the River Stour. Flatford Mill was a watermill for grinding corn, operated by the Constable family for nearly a hundred years. It still survives and is about a mile from Constable’s birthplace at East Bergholt, Suffolk. The house on the left also survives; in Constable’s time it was occupied by tenant farmer Willy Lott.
Constable himself did not call this picture The Hay Wain – it was a nickname given to it by his friend Archdeacon Fisher. When it was sent to the Royal Academy in 1821 with its given title ’ Landscape: Noon ‘, it was greeted favourably by reviewers. The Examiner declared that it ’approaches nearer to the actual look of rural nature than any modern landscape whatever‘. However, it did not sell. Constable was probably unaware at the time that two French visitors to England – the artist Géricault and the writer Nodier – had seen his painting in the Royal Academy. According to Delacroix, Géricault returned to France ’quite stunned‘ by Constable’s picture. Nodier suggested that French artists should similarly look to nature rather than relying on journeys to Rome for inspiration (by this he meant emulating the classicising landscapes, painted by artists such as Claude).
Constable made a scientific study of cloud formations; he was determined to represent them accurately, and at the same time he saw that clouds could best express the mood of a landscape. ‘It will be difficult to name a class of landscape in which the sky is not the key note, the standard of scale and the chief organ of sentiment’.
The finished picture in the National Gallery differs hardly at all in composition – only the figure on horseback in the foreground has disappeared – but it does show a more detailed treatment of the landscape, with firmer contours and more naturalistic colouring. It is by far the better known of the two, yet in some ways ‘it is the sketch, with its rapid brush strokes, its flecks of white and green skimming the surface, and its generally broader treatment that accords more with modern taste.
The trail led Fake or Fortune? co-presenter Fiona Bruce to experts in Los Angeles.
“I promised the person I sold it to that one day I would return and try and prove it and wonderfully, we were able to do it,” Mr Mould said.