National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS

Martin Johnson Heade

Selections from the Exhibition | Related Online Resources
Introduction | Seashore Views and Marshes | Early Still Lifes | Hummingbirds | Florida | Images

Seashore Views and Marshes

Heade's shore scenes took up much of the years between 1859 and 1863. Of two basic types, the first depicts a restless, ink-dark sea beneath the light of advancing thunderclouds. These paintings have been thought to express his own anguished feelings about the Civil War; Heade was a Northern partisan. Approaching Thunder Storm is almost surreal in its portentous atmosphere. The dark bay looks to modern eyes like a black hole. The second type of shore scene is quieter. Here the low sun, reflected in the water, is either just setting or burning through a morning haze. Twilight, Singing Beach (1863) is just such a peaceful scene, where the low-tide waves lap the shore in the fading light.

In an era when artists of the Hudson River School focused on grand scenes of waterfalls and mountains, Heade's choice of depicting boggy marshes was an unusual one. Heade painted more than 120 marsh scenes, in every sort of light. Hayfields: A Clear Day (c. 1871-1880) has an atmosphere as warm as gold leaf, while Marshfield Meadows (c. 1877-1878), a similar scene, is all cool blue, green, and gray.

Introduction | Seashore Views and Marshes | Early Still Lifes | Hummingbirds | Florida | Images