This charming engraving by David Lucas (1802-1881) is after a well-loved rural scene by John Constable (1776-1837) titled ‘The Cornfield’. It’s finely rendered and was initially commissioned by Constable for a book, ‘Various Subjects of Landscape, Characteristic of English Scenery’, first published in 1830.
It depicts a young lad, dry from Summer heat, conspicuously stretching to drink from a pool. As a boy, Constable wandered through this lane towards his school in Dedham, so perhaps he’s recalling a memory from his own childhood. The original was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1826 but titled ‘Landscape: Noon’. And at the British Institution a year later, it was accompanied by a poem:
A fresher gale Begins to wave the woods and stir the stream, Sweeping with shadowy gust the fields of corn.
James Thomson, "Summer", The Seasons
This engraving by Lucas is finely done and brings its own monochrome mood. In many ways, it’s more atmospheric than the original due to its lack of colour. It feels akin to an engraving after an old master three centuries earlier. And perhaps, as we look back, this is an appropriate comparison for an artist that we consider a master of the British idyll.