Artist Martin Johnson Heade is well-known for his coastal landscapes, and Approaching Thunder Storm is his largest painting. The piece is praised for its dramatic depiction of blackening skies and illuminated terrain, and is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection. Heade became fascinated with landscape painting after meeting established artists in New Hampshire, transitioning from still life subjects to salt marshes, seascapes, and tropical birds.
In addition to his artistry with landscapes, Heade was also enamored with hummingbirds and lotus blossoms. Approaching Thunder Storm was based on a sketch he made while witnessing a Rhode Island storm on Narragansett Bay – the museum has a sketch related to this painting in its collection as well. It’s not uncommon for Heade’s paintings to center around weather phenomena; another work called Thunder Storm on Narragansett Bay can be found at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.
Heade’s paintings were often inspired by nature and sought to capture its power through striking imagery like that found in Approaching Thunderstorm. With this piece alone, he captured both the eerie beauty created by lighting up darkened skies, and the stark relief offered by illuminating nearby terrain – testament to why he remains an important figure in American landscape art today.