Discover Constable & The Hay Wain
17 October 2024 – 2 February 2025
In winter 2024‒25, as part of our Bicentenary celebrations, the National Gallery will stage the exhibition Discover Constable & The Hay Wain focussing on John Constable’s masterpiece The Hay Wain (1821).
This will be the first loan exhibition held at the National Gallery on this artist and the first to explore the social, political and artistic context of the English landscape at the time of 'The Hay Wain’s' production.
An exhibition on 'The Hay Wain' in the National Gallery’s Bicentenary year is apt as 1824 was the key international moment for Constable (1776–1837), when the painting garnered great acclaim at the Paris Salon, receiving a gold medal from the French King Charles X.
This exhibition is part of the ‘Discover’ series, staged in the National Gallery’s Sunley Room, which explores well-known paintings from fresh and unexpected perspectives. This will be the fourth in the series after Manet & Eva Gonzalès, Liotard & The Lavergne Family Breakfast, and Degas & Miss Lala.
Visitors will enter 'The Hay Wain' exhibition through a display of works in Central Hall by Old Masters that influenced Constable, drawing on the rich collection of the National Gallery.
The exhibition will explore how the English landscape was changing physically and politically at the turn of the 19th-century, and how this was understood and represented (or not) by artists at this time. The spiritual landscape will be examined through the works of William Blake (1757 –1827), the poetic landscape through contemporary writings about the rural landscape by the peasant poets such as Robert Bloomfield (1766 –1823) (whose work was quoted by the artist), and the political landscape through satirical contemporary prints that address topical issues, such as the corn laws.
The exhibition will look at where Constable was in his career in 1821 when he produced 'The Hay Wain' and his process of building final works from sketches and studies produced over many years. It will demonstrate the impact of this work, when it was displayed at the 1824 Paris Salon, on contemporary French and British artists who drew inspiration from the artistic style of Constable.
One of the principle aims of the exhibition is to show how Constable came to be established as a master in the history of British art, as his work entered the collections of major galleries and museums. It will introduce the major donations from John Sheepshanks, Henry Vaughan, and Isabel Constable to the national collections of the V&A (South Kensington Museum), and the National Gallery, a number of which are now held in the collections of Tate Britain.
This free exhibition will include works by John Constable, George Morland (1763‒1804), and John Linnell (1792‒1882) among others.
The exhibition is curated by Christine Riding, Director of Collections and Research and Dr Mary McMahon, Acting Associate Curator 1600‒1800 at the National Gallery.
Exhibition supported by
The Sunley Room exhibition programme is supported by the Bernard Sunley Foundation
Notes to editors
Press view: Tuesday 15 October 2024
John Constable (1776–1837)
'The Hay Wain'
Oil on canvas
130.2 × 185.4 cm
© The National Gallery, London
The National Gallery
The National Gallery is one of the greatest art galleries in the world. Founded by Parliament in 1824, the Gallery houses the nation’s collection of paintings in the Western European tradition from the late 13th to the early 20th century. The collection includes works by Bellini, Cézanne, Degas, Leonardo, Monet, Raphael, Rembrandt, Renoir, Rubens, Titian, Turner, Van Dyck, Van Gogh and Velázquez. The Gallery’s key objectives are to enhance the collection, care for the collection and provide the best possible access to visitors. Admission free.
The Bernard Sunley Foundation
The Sunley Room was established at the National Gallery in 1984 and the Foundation has supported the exhibition programme in the Sunley Room every year since 1990. The Bernard Sunley Foundation is a family grant-making foundation which supports charities in England and Wales that deliver a real community focus and provide greater opportunities for the young, the elderly, the disabled and the disadvantaged.
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Constable is famous for his landscapes, which are mostly of the Suffolk countryside, where he was born and lived for much of his early life. He made many open-air sketches, using these as a basis for his large exhibition paintings, which were worked up in the studio. His pictures are extremely popular today, but they were not particularly well received in England during his lifetime. He did, however, have considerable success in Paris.
Constable was born in East Bergholt, Suffolk. He was largely self-taught and developed slowly. In 1799 he was a probationer, and from 1800 a student at the Royal Academy schools. He exhibited from 1802 at the Royal Academy in London, and later at the Paris Salon. He influenced the Barbizon School and the French Romantic movement.
Like Thomas Gainsborough, Constable was influenced by Dutch artists such as Jacob van Ruisdael. The works of Peter Paul Rubens and Claude also proved to be useful colouristic and compositional models. However, the realism and vitality of Constable's work make it highly original.
Also on display at the National Gallery at the same time:
Van Gogh: Poets and Lovers (14 September 2024 – 19 January 2025)