the hay wain

Within art most successful artists try out many different combinations of art mediums and styles within their career as they develop and seek new avenues of inspiration and creativity.
It seems incredible in the modern era that landscape painting ever struggled for acceptance but this was very much the case for artist John Constable who was up against the more accepted artist topics of religious scenes and commission-based portraits of rich noblemen and families.

The hay wain
Sold at the exhibition with three other Constables to the dealer John Arrowsmith, The Hay Wain was brought back to England by another dealer, D. T. White; he sold it to a Mr. Young who resided in Ryde on the Isle of Wight. It was there that the painting came to the attention of the collector Henry Vaughan and the painter Charles Robert Leslie. [6] On the death of his friend Mr. Young, Vaughan bought the painting from the former’s estate; in 1886 he presented it to the National Gallery in London, where it still hangs today. [7] In his will Vaughan bequeathed the full-scale oil sketch for The Hay Wain, made with a palette knife, to the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum). [8]
The Hay Wain – originally titled Landscape: Noon – is a painting by John Constable, finished in 1821, which depicts a rural scene on the River Stour between the English counties of Suffolk and Essex. [1] [2] It hangs in the National Gallery in London and is regarded as “Constable’s most famous image” [3] and one of the greatest and most popular English paintings. [4]

The hay wain
Anne Lyles (ed.) ‘Constable: The Great Landscapes’, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain 2006, pp. 140-145.
These two statements may, at first sight, appear contradictory, but it is important to appreciate that for Constable there was no conflict between a naturalistic and a poetic representation of landscape. The ‘Haywain’ sketch, like many of his other paintings, is dominated by dark threatening clouds.

The hay wain
In his early days as a painter he had used family connections to paint portraits of the local Suffolk gentry. Yet his interest was in landscapes of the part of the world he knew and loved.
The mill and cottage Constable painted were handed to the National Trust in 1943 for safeguarding for the nation. Moreover, the National Trust acquired many of the physical elements of The Hay Wain landscape, and are committed to preserve them for eternity. However, the Mill passed out of the Constable family hands in the middle of the 19th century.

The hay wain
The farm workers are hard at work but seem contended and are surrounded by beautiful scenery. All of these aspects illustrate Constable’s idyllic view of his home county of Suffolk.
Through family friends and business associates Constable was exposed to what was considered the best art of his day and this led to him developing his own painting style which is illustrated in The Hay Wain.


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