Between 1808 and 1816 – the year of his marriage to Maria Bicknell – Constable spent most of his summers at East Bergholt, sketching in the fields and the surrounding countryside. From 1810 he began to paint images of the River Stour, and the activities associated with it, particularly in the area near his father’s mill at Flatford. Indeed, the bulk of his subjects during the first half of his career are images of Suffolk. Many of these are rapidly executed, evocative sketches, painted entirely, or substantially in the open air – often depicting transient atmospheric effects.
Constable painted this view outdoors in the vicinity of Flatford Lock at sunset. He cut his canvas to fit into the paint box he carried, and pinned it to the opened lid while painting.
The landscape around the Stour Valley and Dedham Vale had been admired by poets and artists before Constable (Tate 1991, pp. 53–54), but he made the area particularly his own by painting it over and over again. Constable wrote in later years: ‘I associate my “careless boyhood” to all that lies on the banks of the Stour. They made me a painter (& I am gratefull)‘ (Beckett VI, p. 78).