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The Hay Wain

The Hay Wain
"The Hay Wain" by Constable ©TopFoto.co.uk/The National Gallery

You’ve probably seen this image most often on a tea towel, a place mat or coaster, but Constable's painting really deserves to be seen in its full oil-on-canvas majesty at the National Gallery.

Completed in 1821, it shows an idyllic rural scene near Flatford Mill on the River Stour in Suffolk. It is now known as one of the greatest English paintings, but when it was originally exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1821, it failed to find a buyer.

It found more favour in France, where critics were astonished by its freshness. It was duly awarded a gold medal by King Charles X, and inspired a new generation of French painters.