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John Constable, 1776–1837, British

Hampstead Heath, with a Bonfire

Former Title(s):

Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath, with figures round a bonfire

ca. 1822
Oil on canvas
Support (PTG): 10 5/8 x 12 5/8 inches (27 x 32.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
buildings | cows | flames | grasses | green (color) | landscape | people | rural | sky | smoke
Associated Places:
England | Europe | Greater London | Hampstead | London | United Kingdom
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

From 1819 onwards Constable, his wife Maria, and their growing family spent part of every year living near Hampstead Heath, an open area of uncultivated land northwest of London. This setting spurred Constable on to a new phase of experimentation: he perfected the representation of dramatic meteorological effects, which were visible from the high ground of the Heath. To emphasize the relatively untamed wildness of the Heath, Constable often included tiny figures in the landscape. In the present example these figures are rendered with a startling economy of touch—they are composed of little more than flicks of black paint.

Gallery label for An American's Passion for British Art - Paul Mellon's Legacy (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-04-18 - 2007-07-29)
Constable's paintings of Hampstead Heath from approximately 1819 on represent a radical departure from the kind of landscape exemplified by views in the Stour Valley, where the artist felt literally and figuratively at home. The uncultivated, elevated heath, exposed and windy, an aerie from which to gaze at the great and equally unagricultural metropolis below, was a place of sand and gravel pits, a place of relative desolation, of sticks and gorse, of burning off, a condition of land, it was feared, to which cultivated pasture might easily revert should it be left fallow or abandoned, a primitive condition from which it is not difficult to imagine Constable lifting his gaze to trace and observe the casting of broad shadows over the heath's uneven contours by clouds scudding overhead. For it was this landscape, not so much the farms of Suffolk, that first inspired Constable's sustained study of the weather and the building of a repertoire of skies from which to borrow in the larger studio landscapes.

Angus Trumble

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's legacy: a passion for British art : masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 289, no. 100, pl. 101, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 288, no. 99, ol. 99, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Algernon Graves, Century of Loan Exhibitions 1813-1912, 5 v., London, 1913 - 1915, vol. 1, p. 199, Grosvenor Gallery 1889 no. 292, N5051 G73 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Paul Mellon's Legacy, a passion for British art. [large print labels] , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 3, N5220 M552 +P381 2007, Mellon Shelf (YCBA)

Graham Reynolds, The later paintings and drawings of John Constable, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1984, pp. 110-11(v.1), no. 22.49, pl. 370 (v.2), NJ18 C74 R485 + (YCBA)

Duncan Robinson, Paul Mellon: a Cambridge tribute, , The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge [England], 2007, pp. 31, 52, N5220 M552 P36 2007 (YCBA)

Malcolm Warner, The Paul Mellon Bequest : treasures of a lifetime, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2001, p. 35, N5247 M385 P28 2001 (YCBA)

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