Catalogue entry

T01920 THE HAYFIELD 1855–56

Inscribed in red paint, b.r. ‘F. MADOX BROWN. HENDON 1855’
Oil on panel, 9 7/16×13 1/16 (24×33.2)
Purchased from a private collector (Grant-in-Aid) 1974
Coll: Bought from the artist by William Morris for £40, 23 August 1856; bought by Major Gillum for £63, 1864; thence by descent to the collector who sold it to the Tate Gallery
Exh: Art Treasures, Manchester 1857 (Modern Masters, 319); Liverpool Academy 1858 (295); Hogarth Club 1858; Royal Scottish Academy 1860 (798); 191 Piccadilly, 1865 (19); ‘The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’, City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham 1947 (5); The Pre-Raphaelites, Whitechapel Art Gallery 1948 (3); Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool 1964, City Art Gallery, Manchester 1964–5 and City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham 1965 (33); La peinture romantique anglaise et les préraphaelites, Petit Palais, Paris, 1972 (30, repr.); The Pre-Raphaelites, Whitechapel Art Gallery 1972 (2); Landscape in Britain c. 1750–1850, Tate Gallery 1973–4 (315, repr. in colour)
Lit: Ford M. Hueffer, Ford Madox Brown, 1896, pp.101–2, 114, 133, 439; ed. W. M. Rossetti, Praeraphaelite Diaries and Letters, 1900, pp.189, 193, 197–8, 200–1, T. Hilton The Pre-Raphaelites, 1970, p.150, fig.107; A. Staley, The Pre-Raphaelite Landscape, 1973, pp.38, 40–3, 94, repr. pl.15

This is one of several small landscapes painted by Brown in the 1850s during a period of great financial hardship. Looking for quick returns, he said he wanted ‘little subjects that will paint off at once’ (Rossetti, op. cit., p.188) but the time and care he actually devoted to them was out of all proportion to the prices they fetched-‘Carrying Corn’, for example, went to the dealer White for £12, and ‘The Brent at Hendon’ for £10. With ‘The Hayfield’ he did better, receiving £40 for it from William Morris.

The progress of the picture is recorded in Brown's diaries. On 27 August 1855 he ‘saw in twilight what appeared a very lovely bit of scenery, with the full moon behind it just risen; determined to paint it’ (Rossetti, op. cit., p.189). He returned to the spot, at Hendon, next day and began work. On the 30th he painted the sky but on 4 September had to scrape and repaint it because it ‘had cracked all over, through being painted on zinc white’ (ibid., p.193). On the 8th he ‘began work again at the Hendon Moon-piece, on Lord Tenterden's property ... The weather has been most trying: however, I have stuck at it, sometimes walking fourteen miles and only getting two hours’ work: in all, with to-day [he is writing on 22 October], nine days or thirty-six hours. In two more I think I shall finish what I can do to it there' (ibid., p.197). At the start of December he ‘began working up the foreground of my Hendon landscape. Yesterday I went to Cumberland Market, and sketched a hay-cart; afterwards put it in’ (ibid., p.198). The moon was added on 20 December but on 1 January 1856 Brown was ‘disgusted’ with the picture: ‘stuck it up against the wall, and worked at it from a distance. Painted out all the easel, box, etc., in front, that took me so much time to paint from nature. Made the whole right again’ (ibid., p.201). Further work was done in January and on the 21st White, the dealer, ‘called, but did not like [‘The Hayfield’]-said the hay was pink, and he had never seen such’ (Hueffer, op. cit., p.114). Finally on 23 August, ‘Rossetti brought his ardent admirer Morris, of Oxford, who bought my little Hayfield for 401.’ (ibid., p.133).

In the catalogue of his exhibition at 191 Piccadilly in 1865 Brown recalled that the picture ‘Was painted at Hendon late in the Summer of 1855. The stacking of the second crop of hay had been much delayed by rain, which heightened the green of the remaining grass, together with the brown of the hay. The consequence was an effect of unusual beauty of colour, making the hay by contrast with the green grass, positively red or pink, under the glow of twilight here represented’. Although the ‘very lovely bit of scenery’ with its ‘unusual beauty of colour’ was the inspiration of the piece, Brown's addition of the cart and workers and the figure of the painter turned it into something of a subject picture. The artist, resting at the end of his day's work in the fields (paint-box closed, camp-stool and umbrella put aside), gazes on the different sort of labour of the harvesters. The picture can, perhaps, be seen as a rural footnote to ‘Work’ (1852– 62), the large painting in which Brown surveyed urban labour in all its variety.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978