John Constable (1776-1837) created a green colour mixture from Prussian blue and Naples yellow. He preferred to mix his own colours rather than use the disappointing green pigments, which were commercially available. Constable had painted portraits of Major General Rebow and his family; and they now wanted a record of their country seat. The commission, however, came at a juncture. Constable had finally persuaded Maria Bicknell to defy her family and marry him. Painting at Wivenhoe Park meant being separated from his fiancée at a crucial moment. On 30 August, 1816, he wrote her a letter which reveals his thoughts at the time:
"I have been here since Monday and am as happy as I can be away from you - nothing can exceed the kindness of the General and his Lady - they make me indeed quite at home. ... I feel entirely comfortable with them, because I know them to be sincere people - and though of family and in the highest degree refined, they are not at all people of the world, in the common acceptance of the word.
"I am going on very well with my pictures for them - the park is the most forward. The great difficulty has been to get so much in as they wanted to make them acquainted with the scene. On my left is a grotto with some elms, at the head of a piece of water - in the centre is the house over a beautiful wood and very far to the right is a deer house, which it was necessary to add, so that my view comprehended too many degrees. But to day I have got over the difficulty, and begin to like it myself. I think, however I shall make a larger picture form what I am now about."
To save time, Constable did not paint a larger picture, as he thought he might. Instead he sewed a strip of canvas on either side of the one he was painting. This enabled him to get in as much of the park as the Rebows wanted, but it meant stretching out the angle of vision. With time the joining of the additional strips of canvas has become apparent, diminishing somewhat the beauty of the picture. He remained, with the Rebows until 6 September 1816 and then proceeded to East Bergholt, from where he seems to have commuted to Wivenhoe Park.
Wivenhoe Park is home to the University of Essex.
The painting is in the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.