Revealing an attachment to the countryside of his youth, John Constable told a friend, “I should paint my own places best.” This painting depicts the Stour River in his native Suffolk. Wending its way past Flatford Bridge, the river turns toward the town of Dedham, whose church tower rises in the distance. Constable blocked off the left side of the canvas with a group of trees to direct the viewer’s gaze to the distant meadow on the right. Diagonal devices – a tilting spar, a discarded rake, an abandoned boat – draw focus to the center of the canvas and the principal motif of labor.
Constable made six large paintings of the Suffolk countryside. In an effort to draw attention to his work, he used six-foot canvases for each of the paintings in the series – now referred to as “the six-footers.” Such large-scale canvases were usually reserved for biblical, historical, or mythological subjects. This series of monumental landscapes shows Constable’s determination to secure professional stature.