A pleasant sense of ease and harmony pervades this landscape of almost photographic clarity. The large areas of brilliant sunshine and cool shade, the rambling line of the fence, and the beautiful balance of trees, meadow, and river are evidence of the artist's creative synthesis of the actual site. The precision of Constable's brushwork, seen in the animals, birds, and people, lends importance to these smaller details.
Constable was a native of Suffolk, the county just north of Essex. His deep, consuming attachment to the landscape of this rural area is a constant factor in his works. His studies and sketchbooks reveal his complete absorption in the pictorial elements of his native countryside: the movement of cloud masses, the feel of the lowlands crossed by rivers and streams, and the dramatic play of light over all.
The commission for this painting came from Major-General Francis Slater Rebow, owner of Wivenhoe Park, who had been a close friend of Constable's father and was the artist's first important patron. This was not the first work Constable had done for the Rebows; in 1812 he had painted a full-length portrait of the couple's daughter, then aged seven. She can be seen in this painting riding in a donkey cart at the left.
More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries, which is available as a free PDF https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/research/publications/pdfs/british-paintings-16th-19th-centuries.pdf
Painted for Major-General Francis Slater Rebow [1770-1845], Wivenhoe Park and Alresford Hall, near Colchester, Essex; by inheritance to his youngest daughter's second husband, John Gurdon Rebow [1799-1870]; by inheritance to his son with his second wife, Hector John Gurdon Rebow [1846-1931]. (Leo Nardus [1868-1955], Suresnes, France, and New York); purchased 1906 by Peter A.B. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park; gift 1942 to NGA.
- Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1817, no. 85.
- Constable's England, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1983, no. 27, color repro.
- Constable, Tate Gallery, London, 1991, no. 79, repro.
- Constable and Wivenhoe Park: Reality and Vision, University Gallery, University of Essex, Colchester, 2000, no. 4, repro.
- Constable's Great Landscapes: The Six-foot Paintings, Tate Britain, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, 2006-2007, no. 17, repro.
The medium-weight canvas is plain woven. It was added to by the artist on either side; the additional pieces are 10.5 cm wide on the left and 9 cm wide on the right; the canvases have been lined. The ground layer visible, a light warm brown, may be an imprimatura over a lighter ground. The painting is executed fluidly and fairly thickly with generally small brushstrokes, the highlights in low impasto. There are minor scattered paint losses. The painting was restored and revarnished with a synthetic resin in 1983.
- Roberts, William. Pictures in the Collection of P.A.B. Widener at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania: British and Modern French Schools, Philadelphia, 1915: unpaginated, repro.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 226, repro.
- Works of Art from the Widener Collection. Foreword by David Finley and John Walker. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 5.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. Masterpieces of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1944: 146, color repro.
- Favorite Paintings from the National Gallery of Art Washington, D.C.. New York, 1946: 65-67, color repro.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 94, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 48, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 146
- Cooke, Hereward Lester. British Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1960 (Booklet Number Eight in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 32, color repro.
- The National Gallery of Art and Its Collections. Foreword by Perry B. Cott and notes by Otto Stelzer. National Gallery of Art, Washington (undated, 1960s): 9, repro.
- Bleckett, R.B., ed. John Constable's Correspondence. 6 vols. London (Historical Manuscripts Commission), 1962; Ipswich (Suffolk Records Society, vols. 6, 8, 10, 11, 12), 1964-1968: 2 (1964): 196, 199, 203, 206.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 238, repro.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 29.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:364, color repro.
- Cooke, Hereward Lester. Painting Lessons from the Great Masters. London, 1968: 42, fig. 28, color repro. opp. 102.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 22, repro.
- Taylor, Basil. Constable: Paintings, Drawings and Watercolours. London, 1973: 29, pl. 51.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 74, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: no. 593, color repro.
- King, Marian. Adventures in Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1978: 79, pl. 47.
- Hoozee, Robert. L'opera completa di Constable. Milan, 1979: 108, no. 218, repro.; color pls. xx-xxi.
- Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 100, pl. 88.
- Rosenthal, Michael. Constable: The Painter and His Landscape. New Haven and London, 1983: 16-17, 104, 108-110, 111, color pls. 12, 16 detail.
- Reynolds, Graham. The Later Paintings and Drawings of John Constable. 2 vols. New Haven and London, 1984: 1:4-5, no. 17.4; 2:color pl. 6.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 406, no. 578, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 93, repro.
- Hayes, John. British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 29-32, color repro. 31.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 155, repro.
- Hoving, Thomas. Greatest Works of Art of Western Civilization. New York, 1997, p. 192-193, repro.
- Fiero, Gloria K. The Humanistic Tradition: Romanticism, Realism, and the Nineteenth-Century World, 1998: 1, repro.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 342-343, no. 276, color repro.
- Kelly, Franklin. "Constable's Great Landscapes: Planning an Exhibition." Bulletin / National Gallery of Art, no. 35 (Fall 2008): 16, fig. 5.
- Marshall, Nancy Rose. City of Gold and Mud: Painting Victorian London. New Haven, 2012: 227, fig. 196.