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Water Meadows near Salisbury by John Constable was a romanticism style landscape painting created in 1820. The painting is oil on canvas and is 45.7 x 55.3 cm in size. Constable spent a lot of time as a guest at the Cathedral Close in Salisbury, with his friend, Archdeacon Fisher.
Constable was inspired by the local landscapes of the plains and river, as well as the Cathedral, and produced a number of paintings while he was in residence, including this one. The foreground and a third of the painting are taken up by the river Avon, while the water meadows and landscape take up a relatively small space, and the sky has the lion's share of the painting. The river is a dark and reflective colour, the light on the river reflects the trees on the far shore and the picture depicts a load being carried, of pollen from the Birches on the shore or the flower in the meadow, or maybe both.
It is possible or imagined, despite the darkness of the river's colour, to see a river bed. One the far shore a small steep bank rises, and alongside it, in the river, a number of clumps of reeds are thriving. Across the centre of the painting, left to right, the water meadows run. A line of trees sit in the left hand corner, running to the river in a ragged line. The trees have the light shape of Alder, Birch, Poplar or Willow, trees often found near water. The furthest trees are the sturdiest, and the tree closest to the water is small and is leaning towards the water on the riverbank.
The trees are on a border between the closest meadow, a green and flowered meadow, and a further meadow which looks more agricultural. In the green meadow a black fleck suggests a bird or animal. In the background are a few houses, and the meadows run to a hedge on the right, beyond which there is a distant landscape of hills and trees, including a short row of Poplars. The sky completes the scene, it is large and expansive, light blue and covered in thin grey cloud. The painting has no people or human activity in it. This painting was rejected in Constable's day, critics called it Green and Ugly but now it is a respected and admired work of art.