John Constable, Flatford Mill (Scene on a Navigable River), 1816-17
In his atmospheric oil sketch Barges at Flatford Lock (c1810-12) and the more famous Flatford Mill (above), John Constable depicted a productive and prosperous countryside, but one that would soon be overtaken by agricultural depression and rioting. It is nevertheless still possible to walk along the tow path and see a landscape recognisable from these paintings. It was therefore sad to read today in The Guardian of plans to commercialise ‘Constable Country’ with a new ‘"an interactive interpretation experience" of the life and times of Constable’ and ‘a fine art "outstation" in an existing Regency villa, including works of Constable and other local painters’, although where they intend to acquire these Constable paintings is unclear. Ronald Blythe has described the proposals as “naive and catchpenny”, the developers see it as a boon for the local economy. Constable’s vision of a harmonious working landscape may have been idealised from the start, but it seems more distant now than ever.