'The Hay Wain', 1821
by John Constable
London, The National Gallery
This landscape by the English artist, John Constable, shows a view across a stream near Flatford on the river Stour in Suffolk. Constable's father owned the mill-house, seen on the left of the painting, and the surrounding land.
In the foreground, the hay wain has paused for a moment while crossing the river, perhaps to allow the horses to drink. The workers in the hay wain take a moment to admire the view. A black and white dog watches from the bank. The painting is brought to life by rippling water and tumultuous skies, as well as the other figures visible in the background - a woman by the cottage, dipping her hand into the cool water, and the farm workers in the fields far in the background.
Constable is well known for his cloudscapes. The weather he has depicted in 'The Hay Wain', together with the landscape of woods, fields and river, certainly give the viewer a nostalgic feel for the English summertime.
Constable actually painted this Suffolk landscape in his London studio, using a number of open-air preparatory sketches that he had made earlier. Today, the cottage and river path are still much as they were in Constable's time.
© The National Gallery, London