The actor Jack Bannister visited Constable in his studio in about 1824, while he was working on one of his upright versions of the Lock subject(see commentary at cats 71 and 108). As Constable described it, Bannister declared that he was ‘so fond of my landscapes he says he must have one’, and that ‘he breathes my pictures, they are more than fresh, they are exhilarating’ (Beckett II, p. 411). Bannister asked Constable for a landscape in which he could ‘feel the wind blowing on his face’.
In this cabinet picture Constable depicted a view to the west over Branch Hill Pond from near Judges Walk. He handled his paint freely to convey a sense of the wildness of Hampstead Heath. The sky, with rain teaming down from the left, is similar in his paintings of this subject of 1819 and 1828, as well as both versions of A boat passing a lock of 1826 and c.1826 .
Bannister became a neighbour of the Constables in Well Walk, Hampstead, at the end of 1827 and Reynolds suggests that this circumstance might have prompted Constable to fulfil this commission at around that time.
Constable first painted this view of Branch Hill Pond, with the sloping bank on the right and looking down a valley, in October 1819 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London) and it became one of his standard Hampstead compositions. He repeated it with variations in c.1825 (Tate, London), in two versions of 1828 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and Cleveland Museum of Art), and in his last Hampstead picture of 1836, Hampstead Heath with a rainbow (Tate, London).