I went to Flatford at the weekend to see an exhibition by artist Simon Carter at the Boathouse Gallery, run by the National Trust near to their tea room. It is a lovely exhibition with drawings and paintings of Willy Lott's Cottage and is on until August Bank Holiday. It was good to see Simon's paintings on two walls of the gallery with the opposite wall of windows completely open to the landscape.
This landscape, in the heart of Dedham Vale was also the source of many of Constable's paintings - 'the Hay Wain' and 'Boatbuilding near Flatford Mill' among them, and is now an 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'. Constable wrote in a letter to Rev John Fisher I should paint my own places best: painting is with me but another word for feeling, and I associate "my careless boyhood" with all that lies on the banks of the Stour: theose scenes made me a painter, and I am grateful. As well as his finished paintings, his sketches are also interesting and I particularly like his cloud studies. The largest collection of Constable paintings outside London is to be found at Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich - well worth a visit!
It was a beautifully sunny afternoon in Flatford and I enjoyed a walk on the water meadows by the River Stour and also round to Willy Lott's cottage, passing several painters sat in the fields painting - perhaps on a course at the Flatford Mill Field Centre? The landscape is quintessentially English, having a sense of timeless beauty, with its undulating fields, mill pond and moving river as well as big East Anglian skies. Nearby there is East Bergholt, where Constable was born and also Dedham, both interesting villages to visit. You can hire rowing boats on the River Stour both at Flatford and Dedham and enjoy a few hours exploring the landscape by water. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/flatford-bridge-cottage