Five must-see Constables

  • 23 May 2013

To celebrate the magnificent Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows being bought for the nation, we've picked our favourite Constables on display across the UK.

Explore Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows with our interactive image map, featuring a commentary from the curator.

1. The Hay Wain, 1821
National Gallery, London

Part of the power of this famous landscape comes from its contrast. The building to the left of the picture is swathed in gloom, hemmed in by the shade of the trees and the darkening rainclouds overhead, while on the right the scene opens up: a clear blue sky pierces through a gap in the clouds, and the field visible in the background sparkles in the light of the sun.

2. The Vale of Dedham, 1828

Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh

While the effect is less pronounced than in The Starry Night, there are similarities between the 'whirlpool' of Van Gogh's painting and Constable's depiction of the Suffolk landscape. The outward curve of the trees, the slope of the undergrowth to the left and the arcing sweep of the clouds seem to circle around Dedham, a village at the heart of what came to be known as 'Constable Country'.

3. Golding Constable’s Kitchen Garden and Flower Garden, 1815
Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich

1815 was a difficult year for Constable: his mother had recently passed away and his father had been taken ill. The family trauma prompted a return to his father's house in Suffolk, where he painted these two landscapes of the area closest to his heart. Taken together, the two paintings form a panorama of the village and fields around his family home during harvest.

4. Hampstead Heath, c.1820
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The English capital has been completely transformed since Constable's time, but Hampstead Heath is one of the few areas that remains recognisable. The painting shows the rolling hills around the small village of Hampstead, which in Constable's day remained separate to London city. In the foreground, two men are collecting gravel to fill the pools of water that accumulate during the rain.

5. A Cottage in a Cornfield, 1817
National Museum Cardiff

Constable painted two variants on this scene. The first was featured in Tate's Constable bicentenary of 1976 – the exhibition catalogue drew attention to a missing second version, eventually leading to its rediscovery. The original is owned by the Victoria & Albert Museum and features several differences, including the addition of a donkey in the foreground.