National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS

Martin Johnson Heade

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

Florida: The Late Works
Although Heade did paint landscapes, his still lifes are considered his most inventive works. Fascinated now with the southern magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora, as he previously had been with orchids and passionflowers, he painted the flower again and again, taking it from the vase and laying the cut branches upon soft, light-absorbing backgrounds of red, brown, or deep blue velvet.

The fleshy, white petals of the magnolia blossoms appear almost to glow in such paintings as Giant Magnolias on a Blue Velvet Cloth (c. 1885-1895). In contrast to the flowers, the glossy leaves softly reflect the light, while the velvet provides a soft, matte foil. Giant Magnolias on a Blue Velvet Cloth is thought to be the culmination of Heade's series of horizontal paintings of magnolia branches. Although these beautiful works received little attention in his lifetime, today they are appreciated for their sensuality and undertones of mystery.

In Florida, Heade at last found peace and permanence. In his sixties and seventies, Heade continued to paint in the now out-of-date realist style, and he produced some of the most remarkable still lifes in American art. Sixty-seven years after he had begun, he was still working up until a few weeks before his death in September 1904.

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