Thursday, March 1, 2012

Martin Johnson Heade

I have always been amazed by landscape paintings so real that you feel like you could step right into the scene. It was only natural for me to become fascinated by the members of the Hudson River School.  A mid 19th century American art movement influenced by Romanticism and represented by a group of landscape painters. Although each member of this movement creates remarkable pieces, one painter in particular caught my attention, Martin Johnson Heade. Heade was was born in 1819 in Lumberville, Pennsylvania and received little art training before producing his first portraits. After time spent traveling in Europe, he displayed his first work in Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philaldephia in 1841. Though classified as a Hudson River School painter, Heade did not always do landscape paintings and his earlier paintings are often overlooked. Heade began his career painting portraits, and then transitioned to landscape through tropical scenes of birds and intricate flowers.
These sketches reveal a great deal of time spent studying his subjects. Both the flowers are drawn several times from different views, which allows him to create a very realistic scene as he becomes more familiar which his subject. These drawings also allow him to have a reference for when he is painting the final project. The same can be said for his later sketches. Again the vegetation in the sketches is drawn repeatedly to understand how it falls. The last sketch is more of a study drawing, just like the ones we do in class, which allowed him to determine how he wanted the final painting to look.

Here are just a few of my favorite works. Martin Heade stands apart from other landscape painters because of his use of arbitrary color. The subtle blues and purples in the white of the flower make Two Fighting Hummingbirds with Two Orchids more interesting than just a realistic painting of two birds and two flowers. He also uses this technique in his landscapes, noticeably with the pinks in the sky and the reds in the path way (in the last painting).  It is a technique I try to use in my own art as well. I enjoy placing colors that don’t necessarily belong there but enhance the piece.

Two Fighting Hummingbirds with Two Orchids, 1875
Sunset Marsh (Sinking Sun), 1868

View from Fern-Tree Walk, Jamaica, 1887


"Martin Johnson Heade Biography." Martin Johnson Heade. Web. 29 Feb. 2012. <>.

Favis, Roberta Smith, 1946-. Martin Johnson Heade in Florida. Edited by Martin Johnson Heade. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000.

Stebbins, Theodore E. Martin Johnson Heade. Edited by Janet L. Comey, Martin Johnson Heade,Los Angeles County Museum of Art., Boston Museum of Fine Arts, National Gallery of Art (U.S.), Karen E. Quinn and Jim Wright. Boston; New Haven: Museum of Fine Arts; Published in association with Yale University Press, 1999.

Heade retrospective in boston. (1999, The Magazine Antiques, 156(5), 558-558. Retrieved from 

"Hudson River School." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Feb. 2012. Web. 01 Mar. 2012. <>.

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