I thoroughly enjoyed watching
Andrew Marr on “The Hay Wain” by John Constable
last Friday night. This is the second episode of the second seasons of
Great Paintings of the World Programme on Channel 5.
particularly struck at the end by the thought that this is precisely the sort
of programme BBC4 should be making – rather than the BBC relegating BBC4 to
becoming an archive channel!!
It appears to me that we now need to look for quality programming about art on
channels other than those ‘allowed’ us by the BBC.
Anyway, back to the programme……
Episode 2: The Hay Wain by John Constable
(1776 – 1837) believed in the importance of working from life and was
dedicated to the way he wanted to paint and basing his paintings on his
drawings of the landscape, skies and ‘weather’.
I thought I knew quite a bit about John Constable, having seen a number of
exhibitions of his work and written about him. However, I was surprised by
some content included in Andrew Marr’s excellent, well researched and cogent
story of his life, family and development as an artist.
He came up with a number of things I either didn’t know or hadn’t appreciated
properly before. Such as
The site and size of
his father’s home in East Bergholt
(the link is to Constable’s painting of it – not featured in the
his experience of being shown at the RA Summer Exhibition – and the decision
to “go bigger” to get more wall space and a better position
(a sentiment not lost on many of those entering competitive exhibitions
His work experience prior to becoming a painter which led to him being a
pre-eminent painter of weather and clouds
the fact that he was a great success at the Paris Salon and sold many more
paintings in France before he became a popular artist in the UK.
His preparation for painting
The Hay Wain
the full scale study for the painting
the historical socio-economic context for the ‘The Hay Wain‘ in terms
of the movement of people – from living in the country to the cities
Do watch the programme on catch up if you can. You won’t regret it if you
enjoy landscape painting!
I also commend to you
the National Gallery page about The Hay Wain
– which allows you to see the painting full screen and also zoom in different
parts of it.
The Hay Wain (1821) by
(1776 – 1837)
oil on canvas, 130.2 x 185.4cm
Plus for those unable to view Channel 5, here’s a video by the National
Gallery about The Hay Wain.
More about John Constable
These are my blog posts
Plus these blog posts from my Travels with a Sketchbook blog
My sketch of Constable’s “Boatbuilding near Flatford Mill”
11″ x 16″, pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Plus some links to works by John Constable
Some excellent summaries can be found on
I highly recommend the collection of his work at the V&A