This view of Dedham and the Stour Estuary as seen from near Gun Hill in Langham was one of Constable’s favourite subjects. In most of these images the tower of St Mary’s Church, Dedham, is a conspicuous feature in the distance. Constable thought the church looked especially striking from this elevated viewpoint. Sometimes, particularly in his later work, Constable included a church in his paintings for symbolic reasons. The church, for him, represented a religious and social focus in the traditional rural environment.
Working outdoors, he applied the paint thickly to achieve a kind of ‘mosaic’ effect to create the impression of the landscape as a multiplicity of surfaces. Leslie Parris and Ian Fleming-Williams note that this work is related to four sketchbook drawings of the subject, probably ranging in date from 1810 to 1815. They ascribe a date of 1815 on the basis of the way Constable painted it – thickly painted all over with a loaded brush (Tate 1991, p. 67).
Some ten years later, in 1827–28, Constable returned to this view when he painted one of his most magical pictures, The Vale of Dedham .