Monthly Archives: October 2019

Devotion for The Hay Wain

The bright red on the harnesses draws your attention right to the hay wain  and the three horses pulling it. It’s the focal point of the painting, and it’s where I’m focusing these devotional thoughts, too.

But first, don’t miss the two related study suggestions especially for homeschoolers at the end of this post. One is a literature study and the other is a Christian history study. Both are related to the time period of this painting and would be good to introduce or expand on a study of the Industrial Revolution.

Now on to The Hay Wain and the three powerful, black horses that made it possible to quickly bring in more hay than men and women on their own could have done.

They were likely descended from Friesians, black horses that originated long ago in Friesland, a northern area of what is today the Netherlands.

  • As early as AD 122 records show that the Romans brought Friesians and their owners to Britain to help build Hadrian’s Wall.
  • In Medieval times Friesian mercenaries rode their large, powerful horses into battles in Britain and elsewhere.
  • In the 1500s more Friesian horses came to the eastern parts of England (where Constable’s family later lived and farmed) with Dutch engineers to help drain the marshes.
  • In the 1800s Friesians were sought after as coach horses, and were often used to pull hearses for funerals.

Because of this, the all-round Friesian horse has contributed to several large and small horse breeds originating in England, including the largest, the Shire horse.

At the time of this painting, although the Industrial Revolution was under way, Friesians and other horses were still indispensable.

Steam may have powered the engines for railroads and machinery in factories, but the coal to produce steam had to be mined. In those mines thousands of small ponies, called pit ponies lived underground and pulled coal carts through the tunnels.

Above ground, railway companies in Great Britain still owned thousands of draft horses to make local deliveries and even shunt engines and cars around in railway yards. In London, over 11,000 horse-drawn cabs took people to work, to theaters, and to railway stations.

Wherever there were canals horses pulled barges and small boats. Here’s another of Constable’s large landscapes that shows a horse leaping a barrier as it pulls a boat along a canal near where Constable lived.

The Leaping Horse, John Constable, wikimedia

The 3-foot barriers kept cattle from straying, so canal horses had to be strong and well-trained to not only pull a barge, but leap the barriers along the way.

Even as more machines were developed to speed up planting and harvesting, large teams of horses had to pull the machines.

Of course people also rode horses everywhere, and livery stables existed for people to rent a horse the way today we rent a car.

Little wonder that we still use the term “horsepower” to determine how much power an engine can produce.

James Watt, whose steam engine helped power the Industrial Revolution, came up with the term “horsepower” to describe how much power it took to raise 550 pounds 1 foot in 1 second. He based the measurement on the work of ponies in mines.

For thousands of years the power of horses has carried armies into battle, allowed people to hunt large game such as bison, taken people to settle new areas, and once there, pulled plows to grow food and wagons to get products to markets.

Yet in Psalm147, we see that God warns us not to put our hope in even that great power.

      His [God’s] pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,

             Nor is His delight in the legs of a man;

       The Lord delights in those who fear Him,

              Who put their hope in His unfailing love. Ps. 147:10-11.

As we put our hope in God’s love, the Lord can use even our weaknesses for His glory!

As Paul says, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Cor.12:9.

Have you experienced a time when God used your weaknesses for His glory?

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Ideas for Homeschoolers studying the Industrial Revolution:

1. Literature study: Read Black Beauty. Anna Sewell wrote the story in the 1800s about a gentle, black horse that worked in many of the capacities I’ve written about. When horses filled city streets and toiled in mines, they were often overworked and abused. Sewell wanted to encourage people to treat horses more humanely, and the book did succeed in bringing better treatment to horses. Today we read it mainly because it’s such a good story, but it can still spark a discussion about kind treatment of all animals or introduce a study of that important historical period.

2. Christian history study: Learn how the revivals of the Wesleys and George Whitefield helped the many people who had left rural life for jobs in factories. Children and adults worked long hours in unsafe conditions and went home to unsanitary slums. But many Christians who came to faith in the Wesleyan revivals worked to better the conditions of poor working people. The Sunday school movement began because working children only had Sundays off.  Others worked to end child labor in mines or start orphanages. They worked to improve hospital and prison conditions.

 

The Hay Wain: Tricks Artists Use to Catch and Hold Your Attention

Using The Hay Wain, this post will show you tricks artists use to catch your attention and then move your eyes around to take in all the details—often without you even realizing it!

Here is a link to the National Gallery page where you can look at and enlarge different sections of The Hay Wain so you can get an idea of how this very large painting has so many spaces and things to explore.

First–getting your attention:  Most paintings have something the artist wants you to notice first. It may be the face of the sitter in a portrait or a particular flower or object in a still life. Landscape artists may choose to focus on a tree or a sunset, or haystacks as Monet did in his haystack series. Whatever it is, it’s called the focal point.

In The Hay Wain Constable has used red to focus your attention on his focal point–the wagon and horses. The horses’ harnesses have bright red fringe. Artists use red for this purpose so often, that you can often just look for that color to find the focal point of many paintings.

Artists also use other things to call attention to the focal point.

  • A central position
  • Larger size
  • Up close
  • The title of the painting!!
  • People in a painting may all look toward or even point to the focus
  • Bright colors or pattern in addition to, or instead of, red
  • Light and shadow contrasts

Activity:  Which of the above techniques did Constable use in addition to red to facus your attention on the wagon and horses?

Second, once you’ve noticed the focal point, artists use more tricks to move your attention on to other parts of their work.

The Hay Wain by John Constable, public domain

1. Related or similar colors throughout a painting draw your eyes onward

Activity: What object in The Hay Wain has colors related to red?  Yes, the roofs of the cottage, which may have actually caught your attention first. But it’s kind of a back and forth thing between the roofs and the wagon and horses, so your attention goes back and forth, too.

2. Similar shapes can move your eyes around also

Activity: Notice how the large tree shapes lead your eyes back to the smaller trees in the background. They seem to march from large trees on the left, to medium ones in the middle, to small ones in the background on the right, but all have  a similar shape, so they create movement around the painting.

3. Lines can move your eyes around, and stop you from wandering off the canvas.

Activity: Follow the diagonal line of the wagon and horses as it points toward the left. Do you see how that could take your attention right out of the painting? Now trace with your eyes the curve of the pond and see how Constable has used the curve to move your attention back to the center. Try not to follow it. You can’t!!

4. Speaking of that curve. Landscape artists often use a curving path, road, or stream to lead your attention back into their painting. Here Molly and I are following a path, and you can see how your eye follows it with us.

Activity: In the Hay Wain notice how the millpond narrows and curves back into the scene. Some of it curves around the house, but the lighter, more noticeable, section curves toward the far field. It’s as if you could walk along that path right into the painting!

5. Light and shadow also move our attention around. The sunlit parts of the pond move our eyes to the light on the house and back to the sunlit field.

                         Though this series of posts about The Hay Wain painting hasn’t had a hands-on art project, here are some more Molly-recommended activities to enjoy with your children!

(Some are specific to landscapes, while others can be used with many subjects)

1. Strap on your backpack and take an imaginary walk or boat ride into the painting. What would you need to wear or take for the weather?

2. While on your walk or boat ride, tell what you would see, smell, hear, feel, and if appropriate–taste!!    (warm sun, bees buzzing, scratchy hay, cool water, soft grass, etc.)

3. How does the painting make you feel–happy, sad, peaceful, excited, afraid, etc?

4. What kind of colors does the painting have? warm or cool?  calm and peaceful or electric and exciting?

5. Have children go on a scavenger hunt to find things in the painting: colors, textures, certain people or objects or other creatures. Find a curvy, wavy, straight, or zigzag line. Find circles, rectangles, triangles, etc. (these don’t have to be mathematically perfect shapes. This is ART!!)

6. Look at the lady getting water, the dog, or the person in the bushes and make up a story about them.  Do any of them live in the house? Are there any children, and if so, what sort of jobs would they have?

7. Tell a story about the duck family.

8. What animals will the hay feed over the winter?

9. What are some other ways people in the painting are caring for their animals?

10. What are some things we see in this painting that show how God cares for our daily needs?

I hope you have fun exploring The Hay Wain yourself and with your children! Let me know which activity you or your children especially enjoyed.

For all those out there who love horses as I do, the next post, a devotion for this painting, will center on those three patient and powerful black horses! Don’t miss it! Sign up now.