The painting titled The White Horse, originally named A Scene on the River Stour, marked the beginning of Constable's series of large canvases, known as the six-footers. Exhibited in 1819 at the Royal Academy, the painting was critically acclaimed, earning Constable the title of an Associate the same year. To create such sizable paintings, Constable first made sketches of the scene from life, which he then developed into a full-size oil sketch before creating the final piece.
In this painting, Constable presents a typical rural scene without glorifying or sympathizing with the workers' labor. He portrays them as he saw them, going about their daily lives. The image exudes an underlying persistence, evident in the barge men's figures as they strain against their poles. Despite the increasing threat of industrialization, Constable shows the workers continuing their traditional way of life with unwavering determination. This resilience is also reflected in the image of the tree on the right, which clings tenaciously to the waterlogged bank.
As is common in Constable's work, the vegetation is presented in scientific detail, with each species distinctly recognizable by its unique shape, color, and growth pattern. The painting features a vast array of greens, with particular emphasis on the delineation of different plant species, giving the image a lushness that captures the essence of the season and time of day.