Constable began his annual summer migrations to Hampstead, then well out in the country, in 1819. In 1827 he took up more permanent residence, leasing a house in Well Walk. His wife Maria, who would eventually die of tuberculosis, was already showing symptoms of the disease when Constable first rented a house there for her health, joining his family as often as he could. The Constables maintained a residence in London in Charlotte Street, and the artist wrote to his friend Archdeacon Fisher on 28 November 1826 that he was 'three miles from door to door - can have a message in an hour - & I can get always away from idle callers - and above all see nature - & unite a town & country life' (in R.B. Beckett, ed., John Constable's Correspondence, VI, Ipswich 1968, p.228). In Hampstead Constable made numerous studies of cloud formations, many oil sketches of Hampstead views, and several 'finished' works on the spot. This painting is one of his earliest Hampstead views. The viewpoint was close to Albion Cottage, rented by the Constables in 1819. The view looks north-westwards, from near the junction of Judges Walk and the Branch Hill Road, which enters the picture at the left. The road runs past Branch Hill Pond and the house known as 'The Salt Box', a prominent residence located on Branch Hill, before leading off towards Child's Hill. Harrow appears in the distance at the extreme left.

Constable's friend and biographer C.R. Leslie (pp.78-9) wrote of this picture:

Constable's art was never more perfect ... I know no picture in which the mid-day heat of Midsummer is so admirably expressed; and were not the eye refreshed by the shade thrown over a great part of the foreground by some young trees, that border the road, and the cool blue of water near it, one would wish, in looking at it, for a parasol, as Fuseli wished for an umbrella when standing before one of Constable's showers.

Further reading:
C.R. Leslie, Memoirs of the Life of John Constable, Esq. R.A., 2nd, revised edition, 1845, pp.78-9.
Leslie Parris and Ian Fleming-Williams, Constable, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1991, pp.215-16, 235, 495, 497-8, 506, 510, reproduced p.215 in colour

Terry Riggs
February 1998