The Hayfield by Ford Madox Brown with a glass Tierra Sagrada
The Hayfield by Ford Madox Brown shows the rolling green fields of the Tenterden estate at Hendon, in Middlesex. Painted in 1855-6, it now hangs at Tate Britain and is one of several small landscapes painted by the artist during 1850s during a period of financial strain. Sadly his dealer wasn't impressed and refused to buy it, and it was his friend and fellow artist William Morris who finally purchased it for £40.
The scene shows people working in a field, harvesting hay and piling it as they go. The lighting gives the impression that the moon in the sky has only just risen, and the sun is just setting behind us - notice the illuminated house on the hill catching some of the early evening sunlight. It's twilight, and the workers have come to the end of their days work.
In the centre is a horse and cart, with a man tending to the horse in front and children nestled in the back waiting for their lift home. To the left in the foreground a man rests against a hay bale with his tools scattered around him, tired from his day out in the field.
Further back you can see a well dressed man on horseback, talking to the haymakers, perhaps telling them that their days work is at an end.
You can almost smell that dry grass and hay smell after a hot summers day, and that dirty earthy smell reminding us of late summer.
And that's exactly what I wanted to capture in a wine. Something light and refreshing, with grassy undertones reflecting the subject of the painting, but also delicate citrus notes..a style of wine that you crave after a long day out in the sun. At a mere 11.5%abv, showing lemon, lime and slightly leafy notes Tierra Sagrada is perfect. It's a blend of two aromatic grape varieties - Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc, organically farmed with no use of herbicides, pesticides or fertilisers, the winemakers aim to preserve the environment and produce a pure flavour. This bright, fresh, crisp dry white works wonderfully, and how can I not mention the label - a horse and cart, along with men working in the fields...
To produce The Hayfield, Ford Madox Brown came to the same spot every day a 5pm, twice a week from the end of July until early September 1855, perfectly capturing the end of the summer months.
Although it's such a delight to look upon today, it received criticism at first because of Browns' choice of colours - the vivid bright greens, against the dull browns of the piles of hay, the vibrant blues of the workers clothes and the turquoise sky. His aim was to achieve the effect of evening light, 'the wonderful effects…in the hayfields, the warmth of the uncut grass, the greeny greyness of the unmade hay in furrows or tufts', and although it seems very believable and natural to us today, that's not really what art was about back then.
Today we are more accustomed to such vivid colours, but this was painted by an artist who was taking inspiration from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. They were a group of English painters, poets and art critics founded in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti amongst others. The group, as well as artists who shared their views, sought to return to the abundant detail, intense colours and complex compositions of 15th century Italian art. They rejected the mechanistic approach adopted by artists who came after Raphael and Michelangelo, taking inspiration from Classical poses and elegant compositions. Today Pre-Raphaelite art include some of the most well loved art in the world, and we are blessed to have such a varied collection at Tate Britain today.
The wine is available from Waitrose, priced £6.99 - so pour yourself a glass and let me know what you think!
Heard in London