John Constable - The Hay Wain

by Alexandra Tuschka


It is probably the most famous picture of the Englishman John Constables: a hay cart is pulled by two black horses through the shallow water. With only a few are the white metal rims of the wheels indicated. The destination of the journey can be seen at the back right of the field. There are workers mowing and loading hay.

The brushstroke is alive. At the time of creation, the old farmer Willy Lot, after whom the cottage on the left was named, must still have been alive. The cottage is also found in another painting of the painter. He was a resident here for 80 years and later became deaf. He must have been a difficult and eccentric contemporary. In this painting, however, he plays a minor role. Not he, but a woman, steps out of the cottage to draw water. On the vertical below is a small dog, whose gaze also directs the viewer's to the hay cart. Constable added him only at the end of the painting process. He also provides a compositional counterweight to the hay wagon. On the right edge, an angler stretches his face out of the bushes into the painting. He casts his fishing rod, his boat drifting in front of him on the still water.


The painter's interest in nature in motion and man in harmony with it is unmistakable. For the studies of this work, Constable often set out to sketch the events on site. In this way, he masterfully captures the moving sky. On the left, for example, he captures the dense, billowing clouds typical of this part of England between Suffolk and Essex. On the right, however, the sky is clearing. The sun is falling through the break in the clouds.

Constable was not as successful during his lifetime as we would assume today - rather, he experienced constant rejection, which was very hard on him. For a long time, he also failed to find a buyer for the Hay Cart. This is because landscape painting was a fairly recent subject that Constable struggled to gain recognition for. Today, a nostalgia is read into his paintings, which was probably not created in this way.


John Constable - The Hay Wain

Oil on canvas, 1821, 130 x 185 cm, National Gallery in London

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