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  • John Constable The White Horse (full-size sketch) about 1818

    John Constable
    The White Horse (full-size sketch) c.1818
    Oil on canvas

    Courtesy the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Widener Collection

  • John Constable The White Horse 1819

    John Constable
    The White Horse 1819
    Oil on canvas

    Courtesy The Frick Collection, New York

  • John Constable Willy Lott’s House about 1811

    John Constable
    Willy Lott’s House c.1811
    Oil on paper

    Courtesy the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • John Constable Willy Lott’s House 1816

    John Constable
    Willy Lott’s House 1816
    Oil on paper laid on canvas

    Courtesy Ipswich Borough Council Museums and Galleries

  • John Constable Stratford Mill (full-size sketch) about 1819

    John Constable
    Stratford Mill (full-size sketch) c.1819
    Oil on canvas

    Courtesy the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund

  • John Constable Stratford Mill 1820

    John Constable
    Stratford Mill 1820
    Oil on canvas

    Courtesy The National Gallery, London

  • John Constable Sketch for ‘The Hay Wain’ about 1820

    John Constable
    Sketch for ‘The Hay Wain’ c.1820
    Oil on paper on panel

    Courtesy the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

  • John Constable The Hay Wain 1821

    John Constable
    The Hay Wain 1821
    Oil on canvas

    Courtesy The National Gallery, London

Constable did not send a major work to the Academy in 1818, his mind no doubt turned to marriage and fatherhood. He was also still struggling to make the large-scale canvases he wanted to show at the Academy, which turned him down as an Associate in November 1818. From this point on he began to make six-foot sketches in his studio, a unique practice in the history of Western art and one which has marked him out as distinctly ‘modern’ in his approach.

His great paintings in the early 1820s are of incidents in the working life of the River Stour, usually at noon: The White Horse 1819, for example, shows a horse being ferried across the river. It was a critical success and Constable was voted an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1819.

Encouraged by this breakthrough, Constable sought to exhibit a six-foot canvas each year, slowly refining his compositional impact and deepening the drama of time and place. The Hay Wain 1821, with its focus on the hay cart under dense clusters of clouds, evokes a specific midday moment as the vehicle turns towards the distant fields.

View on the Stour near Dedham 1822 marks an important moment in Constable’s development. Major changes were made on the full-scale sketch in the interests of securing a key compositional focus for the design, a process made powerfully evident in the x-ray installation in the last room of this exhibition. Equally significant, from 1822 Constable moved away from the stricter documentary accuracy of his earlier work.