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Against a distant, hazy, verdant forest, a petal-pink and amethyst-purple orchid grows from a mossy branch close to us, to our left, while three jewel-toned hummingbirds gather around a nest to our right in this horizontal painting. Two pale pink, ruffled petals of the orchid flare up and out from the hot-pink, furled center. The lip-like petal below is amethyst purple brushed with pale yellow along its top. Three narrow, pink petals create a triangle behind the center of the bloom. Some of the pale honeydew-green pods and leaves growing from the base of the plant are speckled with brown spots. The orchid grows on a gnarled brown branch painted with daubs of white, burnt orange, goldenrod yellow, and scarlet red along its length, which spans the width of the painting. Three hummingbirds with narrow, pointed beaks tend a nest built further along the branch to the right of the orchid. The largest is perched with its back to us. It has a vibrant green body and a two-pronged, crimson-red tail. Its head is turned up and to our left, looking at the second bird fluttering on a branch across the nest. The second bird’s avocado-green and dusty rose-pink body curves downward from outstretched wings. The third bird is perched on a nearby branch to our left, its head turned to the right to look at the others. Two white eggs are partially visible in the nest, which is shaped like an upside-down cone. The nest is woven with wavy, dangling strands of burnt-orange plant material. The orchid, birds, and nest fill the center of the composition. The scene is brightly lit from upper left. More leafy branches covered with hanging vines rise on either side of the painting. The background is filled with a dense growth of plants and trees, painted with blended shades of muted greens and pinks creating a diffuse, watery haze. The sky takes up the upper third of the composition and is filled with smoke-gray clouds except for a small circle of blue sky peeking through the branches of the tree in the upper right.

Martin Johnson Heade, Cattleya Orchid and Three Hummingbirds, 1871, oil on wood, Gift of The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, 1982.73.1

Community Events

Virtual Studio

Haiku to Haiga: Transforming Poetry into Visual Art

  • Saturday, May 14, 2022
  • 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • Virtual Program

Guided by local Educator and Artist Sean Felix

Join us to write haiku poetry inspired by the National Gallery of Art's collection. We will then practice transforming our haikus into a contemplative artwork called a haiga, as we expand our thoughts and emotions in a re-expression of our artwork.

Materials

Paper, pencil, and a coloring medium like colored pencils, markers, pastels, etc.

Questions?

[email protected]