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Boat Building near Flatford Mill

Painted entirely in the open air, this painting depicts the building of a boat at a dry dock along the River Stour.


Constable's compositions were clearly dictated by what he saw in front of him, the nature of the English landscape, of rural pastures the  had grown up with, using symmetrical compositions and scenes that focused on manmade buildings such as a mill, a church, cottage, or as we see here, a barge.

‘Boat Building' was certainly a keystone in the artist’s career, progressing towards the great paintings that brought him his fame and increasing interest in the study of rural scenery.

Unusually for Constable the unfinished boat is shown with significant detail, but not painted with any more care than the surrounding trees.  Using natural tones and vibrant greens to match the colours he saw in the countryside, the classical landscape of vivid colours and new techniques to give the realistic appearance of flowing waters, and capturing the depth of the layers in the greens of the trees.

Donated to the V&A by Isabel Constable, daughter of the artist in 1888

*Isabel Constable was the last surviving daughter of the painter and gave the contents of her father’s studio to the Victoria & Albert Museum, making them the principal collector of Constable's work which included 395 oil paintings, sketches, drawings, watercolours and sketchbooks.


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