Constable's Space


Today we took time out from sorting Priscilla’s mother’s things and house, with a journey of just over an hour south to Flatford, where John Constable painted at least six of his landscapes, including the famous Hay Wain which features this still-standing cottage. Yesterday was cold and overcast – the wind so biting I was wearing a beanie and pullover to mow the lawns, but today it was sunny with clear skies (and almost hot). We couldn’t have asked for better.


After looking around the mill, lock and surroundings linked to Constable’s paintings, we walked beside the River Stour through the Dedham Vale to the very pretty and ancient town of Dedham itself. It was a round-trip of about 90 minutes and most refreshing.


There’s been a church in Dedham since the 13th Century. Dedham also featured in many of Constable’s paintings, but what struck me was the way he foreshortened the perspective when painting from Flatford to make it look as if Dedham was closer (and therefore make more visible the architectural features he needed to contrast with the rural scene) than it is: he brings it at least 50% closer in includes details that cannot be discerned from where he is painting!


The Stour is tranquil, the fields calm and the cows placid: one can instantly see why Constable and his painting style came together here. I was surprised however by the “Vale” that is Dedham Vale. It was a wide, flat flood-plain, with the river running a metre or so below the pastures (on one side) and fens (on the other). There is almost no sign of hills that I expected to have surrounding a valley. At times one could just glimpse a ridge of low hills several kilometres in the distance that I presume form the boundary of Dedham Vale.


Tomorrow is Mother’s funeral. We leave Banham at 7:00 am for the 9:00 am burial service at Trumpington (near Cambridge), then return to Banham for lunch. A thanksgiving service follows at 2:00 pm at her church, Diss Baptist Church. We are looking forward to Hannah joining us for this (she flies to the UK today and stays overnight with Priscilla’s sister Felicity in Bedford). We’ve had a lovely bunch of flowers from our other children who cannot be here. Then Saturday we fly with Hannah to Holland for a week and a half with her family.


© 2020 Michael L Drake