John Constable (English, 1776–1837)
The Vale of Dedham, 1827–28
Oil on canvas
57 x 48 in.
Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh
© Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland
A definitive treatment by Constable of his home territory and lifelong source of inspiration, this sweeping view of the Stour Valley combines compositional elements from a long-admired work by Claude Lorrain (Hagar and the Angel; National Gallery, London) with specific features of the area: the fertile farmland along the winding river, the Stratford toll bridge, the tower of the village church of Dedham, and the estuary at the horizon. In the foreground, a woman cradling her child by a fire next to a temporary shelter humanizes the landscape. With deft touches of his brush and palette knife, and even his fingers, Constable conveys the luminosity of the scene. Patterns of light and dark sweep over the glistening ground, reflecting the movement of billowing clouds that fill the upper half of the canvas.