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(piano music playing) Steven: We're in the Huntington Library and we're looking at one of John Constable's six paintings that are called the six-footers. These are large-scale landscapes and ... Beth: Which was a radical idea. Steven: Landscape was not considered high genre of art, at all. Landscape was close to the bottom and this was a scale that was appropriate for history painting. Beth: So Constable is immediately making a statement. about the importance of landscape painting and interestingly, not painting in Italian-age classical, timeless landscape, but very much his own landscape of his native Suffolk. Steven: This is where his father's farm was and so this was an environment that he was extremely familiar with. Beth: And it's not at all ideal, feels like a specific time of day, a specific season, a specific kind of weather. Steven: And in fact, Constable, we think is the first artist who will take weather seriously and to study meteorological books and the trees are so specific, the foliage is so specific, you could actually determine what kind of foliage this is. Beth: It looks like either a storm is approaching or has just passed. You can almost feel the coolness of the breeze. There's something very rough and tactile and it's a beautiful, ideal, pastoral English landscape, but at the same time, it's filled with qualities, of the mud of the river and the plants growing by the bank, but you can feel it. Steven: And this is a painting that is about landscape, but it's also filled with vignettes. You have men pulling and pushing. You can see two barges in the canal and somebody who seems to be pushing them apart to maneuver one of these barges past the other, the white horse on the left is at rest and the men are doing the labor here. Beth: That's true and then across the footbridge, we see a woman carrying a baby bathed in sunlight. Another figure doing some washing in the river and another couple of figures just beginning to move on to that footbridge and then in the distance, a sail on a boat and then a sail on another barge and then in the further distance, have a church and it's clearly an important part of this painting, the English Anglican church and so there's a real sense of timelessness that this is a kind of cycle of life. ordained by God and will continue forever. Steven: I agree. It is timeless, but it's also full of particularities, the clouds, the types of trees, Beth: the weather. we see a rake, some water lilies in the lower left, the particulars of the reflection in the canal itself. Beth: But it's a kind of an idea of a particularity that Steven: That's right. Steven: What's actually happening to British society at this moment. This is the industrial revolution and with trains, these kinds of barges are no longer going to be that useful to transport grain into the cities to the markets. Beth: The price of food had fallen and there was real unrest in the countryside itself, fires, major political unrests that had the aristocracy and the landowners like Contable's own father, really fearful for the future of England. Steven: So is this a kind of a denial then or a kind of nostalgic review to a fleeting present and perhaps, a really even a past. Beth; Well then Constable's own past, his own sense of his boyhood, his own nostalgia. I think there's a both a personal nostalgia for the place that he grew up, a feeling that many of us know very well, but also nostalgia perhaps for that a sense of an England that was disappearing. (piano music playing)