One of my most favorite paintings is The Hay Wain by John Constable, finished in 1821.
It’s one of those paintings that could be found, in the 50’s and s60’s, in most British homes, along with the slightly exotic, green faced chinese lady’s portrait ( amazing, I googled this and found it here!). 🙂 I think that people got so used to seeing the Hay Wain hanging over the mantel that they began to take it for granted, like the wallpaper. But no one’s captured the quality of light and painted the English countryside, skies and clouds like Constable, before or since.
It was my Dad, Alan’s favorite painting because it reminded him of the place in Surrey where he grew up. When we went to the National Gallery in London, we’d visit it faithfully and stand before it in awe. I was five or six when I first saw it and it’s one of the reasons I paint today. I think what struck me the most about it was the impression it made on my Dad and his reaction to it every time he saw it in person.
We had a routine, after the Hay Wain we would visit Gainsborough and then Renoir and then the Impressionists but we never, ever went to the Medieval gallery because he found it depressing, to much agony. (Funnily enough it is now my one of my favorites, not for the agony, but for the jewel-like colors of the egg tempera,the gold leaf and the Madonnas.) Then we’d go to the gift shop to add to my collection of postcards before heading off to the cinema in Leicester Square to see a full length Bugs Bunny cartoon, equally sublime to me.
In the 70’s I bought a print of The Hay Wain, framed it and sent it to him- after his death it came back here with me and now hangs in my living room, it must have been a really good print as it’s never faded with time.
I love this painting because it reminds me of my Dad and of our halcyon days in the National gallery and because it inspired me to do what I do today.