MAKING A MARK: ‘The Hay Wain’ by John Constable

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.

I was
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


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
    – including
    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
John Constable
(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

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