It’s a far cry from the Teachout Museum, let me tell you, but a picture of this Constable picture, safekept from an otherwise discarded 2002 wall calendar, is what I look at when I’m at my desk. An oil sketch that I saw in person when I was in London more years ago now than I care to believe, “A Lane in Flatford” mesmerizes me even in this humble form. I’m not sure how well you can make it out in the web reproduction, but the detail I’m obsessed with is the leftmost cloud, which meets the tree to its left oddly flush. The paint seems most heavily applied here, and the cloud’s white, thick brightness arrests my eye–every day–like a tear in the canvas. This bold cloud is the most aggressive, crispest detail in the picture, but it stops short of the rather fuzzy, sweet tree, meeting it halfway. The question of which is background and which foreground seems strangely, disarmingly unresolved. The picture’s verisimilitude breaks down a little.
Honestly, I stare at this picture intermittently for hours most days, but before tonight I couldn’t have told you what was in it besides that cloud and treetop. There are figures? A lane? A fence? Huh. So that must be where the painting gets its title. Still, to me, it’s a picture of a cloud, and of painting.