Dedham Vale Analysis Essay
Dedham Vale is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the Essex-Suffolk border in east England. It comprises the area around the River Stour between Manningtree and Smallbridge Farm, 1 mile (1.6 km) east of Bures, including the village of Dedham in Essex. It is part of the area known since the artist's lifetime as Constable Country, as it was made famous by the paintings of John Constable. Among many other works of the area is his 1802 Dedham Vale in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Dedham Vale supports a viable and diverse agriculture with a mix of farm sizes. The majority of the land in the valley is still farmed despite development pressures. Farming is the primary tool for supporting the area’s landscape and wildlife. Arger Fen, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, contains areas of ancient woodland, meadow and fen.
Throughout the valley Eocene and glacial deposits overlay chalk deposited during the Cretaceous period. London Clay and sands are often exposed on the valley sides as the river and its tributaries cut through the deposits. The composition of these layers and where they occur is paramount in determining what species will grow, which habitats can occur and how the area is farmed.
The River Stour is the key landscape focus for the valley, its course is defined by bank-side trees and wet meadows. It supports a variety of riparian (river) habitats.
The valley floor has a large areas of functioning floodplain. Water quality is good, meeting levels demanded in regulations. The catchment meets sustainable demands for water supply, flood control and recreational use, whilst retaining an unspoilt character and healthy ecosystem.
The river has become an important method of controlling water levels both in the surrounding countryside and irrigating crops.
Humans have had a great influence on the landscape including building isolated settlements, transport links and churches. Agricultural workers divided up the land to plant crops, grow timber and graze animals.
The landscape continues to change as changing agricultural practices, increased leisure time and an awareness of environmental concerns all contribute to development of the Stour valley.
John Constable (1776–1837) created landscapes that ranged from sketches with broad, loose strokes to highly polished and tightly rendered finished paintings. He would often arbitrarily end the painting process at any degree of finish in between. The four-by-six-foot painting The White Horse (1819), part of the Widener Collection at the National Gallery of Art, seemed to have been painted in one of these intermediate styles at the time of its donation in 1942.
Once considered a same-size second version of the highly finished The White Horse in the Frick Collection, New York City, the Widener White Horse showed a halfway degree of finish that became problematic in determining its attribution. If the painting had been more of a sketch, experts likely would have attributed it to Constable, because over the course of his career he had created nine four-by-six-foot paintings for the annual exhibition at the Royal Academy. For all but The White Horse, he had first created a full-size sketch. Because the Gallery's painting seemed more like a finished work than a sketch, and was somewhat awkwardly realized in a technique that did not really match any of those typically seen in Constable’s paintings, by 1977 scholars concluded that the painting was a lesser copy by another artist.