Flatford Mill (Scene on a Navigable River)

Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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This elaborate scene, one of the artist's "six-footers", was completed by John Constable in 1816. It captures the beauty of the Suffolk countryside, and did most of his career.

The painting features a young boy on horseback in the foreground. He receives help from several other children and they collectively navigate a boat along a narrow canal. The content is charmingly traditional, where many everyday tasks would have to be completed through hard, physical work. Whist these figures dominate your attention on initially viewing the painting, there is also considerable detail elsewhere in this huge canvas. A series of houses dot the far background, on the left, whilst the whole right hand side of the composition is devoted to a varied series of trees. The artist famously produced hundreds, if not thousands, of drawings of trees during his career in order to master this specific element of landscape art, and the fruits of his hard work can be seen within Flatford Mill (Scene on a Navigable River) at first hand.

Flatford Mill (Scene on a Navigable River) in Detail John Constable