Here is a Constable of a boat being built next to the Flatford mill. I get some really great stuff via e-mail, a reader sent me a photo taken on a trip to Constable country that shows the location of the subject. That is below.
The dry dock has been filled in over the years with trash so it is not as deep as it was in Constables day, but evidently the stocks on which the boats were built are original. I am always interested in seeing the location of great paintings. I guess there were bigger trees across the river back then, but other than that, not much seems to have been changed.This boatyard was owned by John's father.
Constable made a drawing of the site in 1814 and the painting is based on that. A contemporary quoted Constable as having said this painting was made on the location. But it certainly must have been worked on in the studio too, at least it looks like it. The painting is dated 1815.
Above is a Constable drawing. I can't find an image of the boat building drawing, however this will serve as an example of the kind of preparatory drawings that Constable made.
Here is a partly finished Constable painting that will give some idea of his working manner. What it looks like to me is this. The canvas has been toned to a burnt sienna or red ocher color.
Here is a closeup of that. I wish I had a better image for you but that's what I have. This is certainly a studio piece as I suspect virtually all of his paintings are despite the popular description of him as having worked outside in plein air. That seems to have been for research for studio paintings and most of that appears to me to have been done in pencil. I have an old book with maybe a hundred carefully made pencil studies for paintings by Constable. This method would have been in keeping with how paintings were commonly made in that era. More on this tomorrow.