Throughout his working life Constable was inspired by the work of other artists. Rubens was one of a number whose work he viewed in English collections, and admired. In a lecture delivered late in his life Constable remarked that ‘Rubens delighted in phenomena – rainbows upon a stormy sky, – bursts of sunshine, – moonlight, – meteors, – and impetuous torrents mingling their sound with wind and wave’ (Beckett, Discourses, p. 61).
In this small poetic night time view Constable may have been influenced by Rubens’s Landscape by moonlight (Courtauld Institute Galleries, Princes Gate Collection), which he knew through the engraving after this painting by Schelte à Bolswert (of which he owned an impression). He echoed the outline of the trees, the stars, the horse, the moon,but diverted from Rubens’s image in not including the moon’s reflection in the stream. Constablemay have viewed Rubens’s painting in the collection of John William Willett, who owned it from 1801 until 1813. However he presented the scene as in the engraving, with the clump of trees on the left, rather than on the right as in the painting. The reversed image suggests that Constable made his painting after Bolswert’s engraving rather than after the Rubens painting. (H. Braham and R. Bruce-Gardner, ‘Rubens’s “Landscape by moonlight”’, Burlington Magazine, CXXX, August 1988, pp. 588–90).