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Rural themes offered nineteenth-century urban art audiences an invigorating view of a healthier way of life. However, many people also escaped the city in reality.

Brighton in particular became a popular resort. John Constable went there with his wife Maria in 1824, for the sake of her health. This sketch of women gathering stray sheaves of corn after the harvest (‘gleaning’) was made outdoors, on the Downs above Brighton in August. The freshness of Constable’s painting style seemed to express perfectly the ideals of robust rural healthiness prevalent at the time.

September 2004