John Constable - Wivenhoe Park, Essex [1816]

This picture, exhibited at Britain’s Royal Academy in 1817, demonstrates Constable’s wish to be a natural painter because it was created almost entirely out-of-doors. During August and September 1816, the artist documented this country estate of old family friends and recorded his progress in letters to his fiancée. The commission financed their wedding.

Centred in the panoramic design, the red brick manor house stands out by reason of its warm colour in an otherwise cool scheme of blues, greens, and grays. Constable wrote about the great difficulty of incorporating the thatch-roofed deer barn. To add this requested motif, he cleverly sewed about an inch of extra fabric to the canvas at the far right. Then, in order to restore the composition’s symmetrical balance, he stitched a similar strip to the left side, where he showed the owners’ daughter, Mary Rebow, driving a donkey cart.

[Oil on canvas, 56.1 x 101.2 cm]