Constable's field

[Letters to the Editor, The Daily Telegraph, 02feb10.]

SIR - Philip Duly asks if it is possible to identify the location of John Constable's The Cornfield (Letters, January 30).

The Second World War diary of Eric Rudsdale, a curator at Colchester Castle Museum, may provide the answer.
Rudsdale was very familiar with Constable's paintings, and had previously identified a hitherto unknown Constable sketch in the Victoria and Albert Museum as a rare drawing of the remains of Colchester's Roman East Gate.

In 1944, he was undertaking Royal Observer Corps duty at Great Horkesley in Essex, overlooking the Stour valley. On September 2, 1944, he noted in his diary that the view due north from his post was almost the same as that in The Cornfield.
An investigation shows that. the site that Rudsdale describes bears some striking similarities to Constable's painting. There is a stream on the left of the view, from which the boy in the painting quenches his thirst. The Stour weaves its way along the bottom of the valley in the view today and in the painting.

The church in the centre of the painting was repositioned by Constable in his final painting, but preparatory work for The Cornfield shows Stoke by Nayland church on the horizon where it can still be glimpsed today.

I have edited Rudsdale's diary and hope to undertake further research with experts to ascertain if his location of The Cornfield is correct.

Dr Catherine Pearson
Halesworth, Suffolk

[03feb10 18:55]