Martin Johnson Heade images and biography
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Martin Johnson Heade

See also: Hudson River School; Landscape Tour


"Martin Johnson Heade was born and reared in Lumberville, a small rural community near Doylestown, in Buck's County, Pennsylvania. He was the eldest son in the large family of Joseph Cowell Heed, the owner of a farm and a lumber mill. The youth's first lessons in art were provided locally by Edward Hicks and probably also by Thomas Hicks, Edward's cousin, a rudimentary instruction apparently never replaced by more formal training. Nevertheless, Heade's artistic sophistication increased considerably within a short time, and, around 1840, he took a study trip to England and the Continent, where he spent two years in Rome.

"By 1843, he was living in New York; he then moved to Brooklyn, changed the spelling of his name to Heade, and in 1847 went to Philadelphia. In 1848, a second trip to Rome and perhaps a visit to Paris established his long-standing pattern of extensive, almost constant travel to distant places. His peripatetic nature prevented his establishing himself early in any American city. After returning from Rome, he lived for about a year in Saint Louis, but between 1852 and 1857 he moved at least three other times, to Chicago, Trenton, and Providence.

"A turning point in Heade's artistic career came after he returned to New York in 1859 and rented quarters in the Tenth Street Studio Building. Proximity to so many landscape painters, especially Frederic Church, seems to have inspired him, for it signaled the beginning of his development of a personal style and sparked his lasting interest in the landscape's broad panorama and subtle atmospheric effects. Even though New York left an enduring mark on Heade's landscape painting and is the city to which he was most closely bound, he seems not to have put down deep roots even there: he never, for example, joined the National Academy of Design, not even as an Associate.

"In the years from 1861 to 1863, which he spent in Boston, Heade interpreted the chaste coastal landscape in a manner uniquely his own. In the latter half of 1863, he took a trip to Brazil and stayed on through March 1864. His purpose in going there was to illustrate a complete series of South American hummingbirds, which he hoped to have published in Britain. Though he failed in that endeavor, hummingbirds in tropical settings continued as a staple subject in his painting. He set out again for South America in 1866; four years later, he made a third trip.

"Views of New England and New Jersey, along with floral still lifes and recurring scenes of the tropics, dominated Heade's work from the early 186os to the early 188os, those years when he produced the landscapes for which he is most remembered today. Though their effect was often described as disquieting, with them Heade developed one of the best instincts in the Hudson River School for capturing nature's remote, fleeting beauty.

"Heade exhibited widely - at the National Academy of Design, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the American Art-Union, the Boston Athenaeum, and the Royal Academy in London - but achieved at best only moderate recognition. Little written documentation exists about him, and he left no identifiable body of writing.

"In 1883, Heade married and moved to Saint Augustine, Florida, where he continued to paint landscapes and flower pieces. In New York, he was virtually forgotten. His work, which was rediscovered during the revival of interest in Hudson River School painting in the 1940s, has been increasingly appreciated in the intervening years and is today accorded major status."

- From "American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School"

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Martin Johnson Heade Images

1859 Approaching Thunderstorm
1862 Lake George
1864 Brazilian Forest
c. 1864-65 Blue Morpho Butterfly
c. 1866-67 Approaching Storm, Beach Near Newport
1868 Thunder Storm on Narragansett Bay
c. 1870 View from Fern-Tree Walk, Jamaica
c. 1872-78 Newburyport Meadows
c. 1875-83 Orchids and Hummingbird
c. 1885-95 A Magnolia on Red Velvet

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