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Heade Newbury Marsh

Martin Johnson Heade, Sunlight and Shadow: The Newbury Marshes, c. 1871-1875, oil on canvas, John Wilmerding Collection

Newbury is at the mouth of the Parker River in Massachusetts and just south of Newburyport, the site of Heade's first paintings of marshlands made around 1859. Heade executed well over one hundred marsh subjects during his career, exploring numerous arrangements of his theme's basic elements of pasture, haystacks, and sky. His  paintings offer nuanced descriptions of the tides, meteorological phenomena, and other natural forces that shaped the appearance of the swamp, but he also shows how men hunted, fished, and hayed the marshes and used them as pasture for their cattle. With its lurid pink thunderheads looming ominously over a peaceful landscape, Sunlight and Shadow: The Newbury Marshes unites the aesthetic categories of the sublime and the beautiful.

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