. . . Constable paints nature at a point in history when its total destruction by the hand of man had not yet become conceivable. But only just . . . Wessel Krul in Green and pleasant land: English culture and the Romantic countryside
“Quintessentially English” is how Constable’s landscapes are frequently described. It’s a source of quiet satisfaction to the painter’s most nationalistic fan base that he was happy to live his life entirely in England, never crossing the Channel, even though his work was much more enthusiastically received by French critics.
Born in East Bergholt, Suffolk, Constable even found the dramatic landscapes of the Lake and Peak Districts too foreign. Rather than mountains, he was inspired by the vast skies of the East Anglian flatlands where he grew up.
Popular opinion was never bothered by intellectual sneering and by 1880 the countryside of The Hay Wain (finished in 1821) was already being promoted as “Constable Country”. Visitors ever since have been drawn to the banks of the River Stour, where Willy Lott’s cottage still stands (Grade 1 listed), so they can compare the view with the painting. It’s reassuringly similar, though the river runs deeper these days, as East Anglia sinks. Continue reading Constable and the English countryside: The Hay Wain