The Hay Wain - John Constable Famous painting:

Flatford Mill was owned by Constable's father. The house on the left side of the painting belonged to a neighbour, Willy Lott, a tenant farmer, who was said to have been born in the house and never to have left it for more than four days in his lifetime. Willy Lott's Cottage has survived to this day practically unaltered, but none of the trees in the painting exist today.

Although The Hay Wain is revered today as one of the greatest British paintings, when it was originally exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1821 (under the title Landscape: Noon, it failed to find a buyer.

It was considerably better received in France where it was praised by Theodore Gericault. The painting caused a sensation when it was exhibited with other works by Constable at the 1824 Paris Salon (it has been suggested that the inclusion of Constable's paintings in the exhibition was a tribute to Gericault, who died early that year). In that exhibition, The Hay Wain was singled out for a gold medal awarded by Charles X of France, a cast of which is incorporated into the picture's frame.

The works by Constable in the exhibition inspired a new generation of French painters, including Eugene Delacroix.[citation needed] Sold at the exhibition with three other Constables to the dealer John Arrowsmith, The Hay Wain was brought back to England by another dealer, D. T. White; he sold it to a Mr. Young who resided in Ryde on the Isle of Wight. It was there that the painting came to the attention of the collector Henry Vaughan and the painter Charles Robert Leslie.[6] On the death of his friend Mr. Young, Vaughan bought the painting from the former's estate; in 1886 he presented it to the National Gallery in London, where it still hangs today.[7] In his will Vaughan bequeathed the full-scale oil sketch for The Hay Wain, made with a palette knife, to the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum).

The Hay Wain was voted the second most popular painting in any British gallery, second only to Turner's Fighting Temeraire, in a 2005 poll organised by BBC Radio 4's Today programme.[4] On 28 June 2013 a protester, reported to be connected with Fathers 4 Justice, glued a photograph of a young boy to the painting while it was on display at the National Gallery. The work was not permanently damaged.[9] It has been suggested that the reason for the wagon stopping at the ford was to allow the river water to cool the horses' legs and to soak the wheels. In hot dry weather, the wooden wheels would shrink away from their metal rims. Wetting the wheels reduced the shrinkage and kept the outer metal band in place.


The Hay Wain Famous painting