Sunday, August 30, 2009

In search of The Hay Wain

Some notes about the photos: * Please click on the photos for larger image. * Images were reduced to 25% of original size as they were too large to upload. * Camera used was a Canon SX 110 IS. Please click on the painting for a larger view. This is without doubt the most well known and beloved of English landscape paintings and arguably the greatest and most beautiful of British paintings - "The Hay Wain". It is on permanent display at the National Gallery in London. Painted by John Constable and completed in 1821, it shows a hay wain (a cart used to carry hay from the field) crossing over the river Stour, just by Willy Lott's Cottage in Suffolk. Actually the landscape shows both the county of Suffolk on the left and Essex on the right as the river Stour marks the border between these two counties. I've seen it written many times that this painting is supposed to show Constable's idealised vision of the English landscape but whoever said this has never visited this area of England, for if they had they would certainly not have used terms such as idealised, romanticised or exaggerated. This countryside, known as "Constable Land" is indeed as beautiful as Constable painted. On our resent visit to London, my daughter wanted to visit the National Gallery. I have never been that interested in great paintings but even I always appreciated the beauty and genius of Constable's paintings. I last visited the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square as a student some 30 years ago and my lasting impression was that there were too many paintings of "Yoshki Poski" there which made me feel exceedingly uncomfortable and I remember wishing to leave the building as soon as possible. However I found refuge in one room displaying the great English landscape paintings by Joseph Mallord William Turner, Thomas Gainsborough and of course John Constable. If I had to return to the National Gallery, at least I could look forward to this room. While admiring the painting I remarked that we really ought to visit the place where Constable painted The Hay Wain just to see what it looked like today. Later, looking at a map I noted that the place was no more than an hour's drive from my parent's home and we arranged a day for the whole family to visit Constable Land for a walk and picnic. I found it incredible that my parents had never visited this place before so we were all in for a treat. We drove up the A12 and parked the cars in the village of Dedham. Road leading into the village of Dedham. The village. A Yellow cottage. A red house. A very old pub. In the window of an oldy-worldy tea rooms. (BTW The jams on display are on the LBD list!) An English Grocer's shop. There in the village centre we found a map telling us how to get to Willy Lott's Cottage. These are some photos I took as we walked along the footpath leading to Flatford Mill. After passing through a tunnel of trees (no photo) we crossed over a little wooden bridge. We passed through a wild orchard of apple trees. It smelt wonderful. Welcome to Constable Land. Trully breathtaking... We walked on along the footpath following the river to our left. We sat and had a picnic along the way then continued our journey. The water was clear right to the bottom. I spotted a dragonfly resting on a flower. And here's a close up at 10X optical zoom. We carried on following the river around to our left. Cows grazed in the field as we passed. We could see Flatford Mill in the distance. After about 20 mins walk we had arrived at the bridge leading to Flatford Mill. There was a museum dedicated to Constable in the mill. We were told that the Hay Wein view was right around this corner. Just after this barn. Almost there... As we turned the corner we caught our first glimpse of the view. Even after nearly 200 years it was quite recognisable. The cottage which appears on the left of the painting. This is the best angle I could manage to try and recreate the painting. A shot to the right looking towards the county of Essex on the other side of the bank. The overgrowth to the right is actually hiding a brick defence wall built during World War II. There was a notice board behind us with various pieces of information. I photoed a few of them. --------- I hope you will agree that this countryside is truly breathtaking. This was without doubt the most memorable and enjoyable day of our holiday, in search of the Hay Wain.

No comments: