What made John Constable’s ‘The Hay Wain’ so radical for its time?
Vivmar Curatorial Fellow Emily Burns explains Constable’s groundbreaking use of colour and skilled composition, and how he set about painting this masterpiece in only 5 months.
The view in the painting 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.
The title, The Hay Wain, refers to the wooden wagon (wain) used for transporting cut and dried meadow grass (hay). The empty wagon is making its way through the shallow water to cross to the meadow on the other side where haymakers are at work.
Find out more about the Hay Wain on our website:
Other paintings featured in this video:
Sir Thomas Lawrence, Portrait of Lieutenant General the Hon. Charles Stewart, later 3rd Marquess of Londonderry (1778-1854)
Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Fighting Temeraire
Thomas Gainsborough, Mr and Mrs William Hallett (’The Morning Walk’)
Still life painting example
Adriaen Corte, Still Life with a Bowl of Strawberries, a Spray of Gooseberries, Asparagus and a Plum
Genre painting example
Nicolas Maes, A Woman scraping Parsnips, with a Child standing by her
Portrait painting example
Lorenzo Lotto, Portrait of a Woman inspired by Lucretia
History painting example
Luca Giordano, Perseus turning Phineas and his Followers to Stone
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The National Gallery houses the national collection of paintings in the Western European tradition from the 13th to the 19th centuries. The museum is free of charge and open 361 days per year, daily between 10.00 am – 6.00 pm and on Fridays between 10.00 am – 9.00 pm.
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