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Drawing - An oak tree in a hayfield
  • An oak tree in a hayfield
    Constable, John RA, born 1776 - died 1837
  • Enlarge image

An oak tree in a hayfield

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Suffolk, England (drawn)

  • Date:

    c. 1810-c. 1819 (drawn)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Constable, John RA, born 1776 - died 1837 (drawn by)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pencil and paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Isabel Constable, daughter of the artist

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case WD, shelf 16

'Portraits' of individual trees were a recurring subject in Constable's oeuvre. Often tranquil, sometimes dramatic, they often carried implications of stability and timelessness and reflected Constable's love of nature, which was both sensual and spiritual. In this sketch, Constable juxtaposed the broad crown of an old oak with a hayfield bathed in the late afternoon sun. This idyllic scene reflects the idea, widespread at the time, that a nation's countryside represented its social and political state; scenes of cultivation and husbandry indicated a state of order and harmony.

Physical description

A pencil drawing of an oak tree with a broad, leafy crown, growing beside a hayfield. A cluster of haystacks appears in the distance.

Place of Origin

Suffolk, England (drawn)


c. 1810-c. 1819 (drawn)


Constable, John RA, born 1776 - died 1837 (drawn by)

Materials and Techniques

Pencil and paper

Marks and inscriptions

'22 July Afternoon' followed by serial number '36'


Height: 120 mm, Width: 172 mm

Object history note

This sketch has proven difficult to date; the emphasis on the long shadows cast by the stooks of hay recalls the oil sketch (Reynolds cat. no. 115) of 1812, but there are no other clues as to the year it was drawn.

Historical context note

In 1819 Constable exhibited at the Royal Academy 'A scene on the River Stour' ('The White Horse'), bought by John Fisher, and now in the Frick Collection, New York (see the sketch-book No. 132, pp. 66 and 70). His second child Maria Louisa (Minna) was born on 19 July. He took a house at Hampstead for the first time at the end of the summer. He was elected A.R.A. on 1 November.

[G Reynolds, 1973, p. 121]

The contemporary poems of Goldsmith, Thomson, and Cowper emphasised the idea that the countryside represented the social and political state of a nation, with scenes of cultivation signifying order and harmony. These ideas had a decisive influence on Constable's depiction of the East Anglian countryside.

Descriptive line

Drawing of an oak tree in a hayfield, by John Constable

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Catalogue of the Constable Collection, Graham Reynolds, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1973, pp. 121, 125
The following is an extract from the text of the entry:
The paper is badly foxed on both front and back. A green mark, perhaps of water-colour, is to be seen in the top of the tree to the right.

The emphasis on the shadows cast by the stooks of hay recalls the oil sketch No. 115 of 1812, but there is little on which to assign a definite dating for this sketch, and it may be earlier than 1810.





Subjects depicted

Tree, Oak



Collection code


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