Tag Archives: Hudson River School

#FineArtFriday: Passion Flowers and Hummingbirds by Martin Johnson Heade

MJ_Heade_Passion_Flowers_and_HummingbirdsArtist: Martin Johnson Heade (1819–1904)

Title: Passion Flowers and Hummingbirds

Genre:  floral painting

Date: circa 1870–83

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: Height: 39.3 cm (15.5 in); Width: 54.9 cm (21.6 in)


About this painting, via Wikimedia Commons:

[1] In Passion Flowers and Hummingbirds, Heade depicted two snowcap hummingbirds, small black-and-white birds found in Panama, and the most brilliantly colored species of passionflower, Passiflora racemosa, in a steamy, lush jungle setting.

The passionflower is so named because missionaries saw correspondences between the parts of the flower and the Passion (or sufferings) of Christ. For example, the ten petals represent the ten apostles present at the crucifixion, the corona filaments resemble the crown of thorns, and the three stigmas relate to the nails.

In this work, Heade successfully combined his scientific interests and his aesthetic sensitivity. He rendered the birds and the passionflowers accurately in a close-up view but also gracefully composed the winding stems across the surface of the picture and contrasted the cool greens and grays with the dazzling red of the flowers.

Although Heade was one of the first to reflect Darwin’s theories in his paintings of flowers in their natural habitats, other artists were subsequently affected by Darwin’s view of the vitality of plants and the interaction of plants with their environment. [1]

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

[2] Martin Johnson Heade (August 11, 1819 – September 4, 1904) was an American painter known for his salt marsh landscapes, seascapes, and depictions of tropical birds (such as hummingbirds), as well as lotus blossoms and other still lifes. His painting style and subject matter, while derived from the romanticism of the time, are regarded by art historians as a significant departure from those of his peers.

Heade was born in Lumberville, Pennsylvania, the son of a storekeeper. He studied with Edward Hicks, and possibly with Thomas Hicks. His earliest works were produced during the 1840s and were chiefly portraits. He travelled to Europe several times as a young man, became an itinerant artist on American shores, and exhibited in Philadelphia in 1841 and New York in 1843. Friendships with artists of the Hudson River School led to an interest in landscape art. In 1863, he planned to publish a volume of Brazilian hummingbirds and tropical flowers, but the project was eventually abandoned.

He travelled to the tropics several times thereafter, and continued to paint birds and flowers. Heade married in 1883 and moved to St. Augustine, Florida. His chief works from this period were Floridian landscapes and flowers, particularly magnolias laid upon velvet cloth. He died in 1904. His best known works are depictions of light and shadow upon the salt marshes of New England.

Heade was not a widely known artist during his lifetime, but his work attracted the notice of scholars, art historians, and collectors during the 1940s. He quickly became recognized as a major American artist. Although often considered a Hudson River School artist, some critics and scholars take exception to this categorization. Heade’s works are now in major museums and collections. His paintings are occasionally discovered in unlikely places such as garage sales and flea markets. [2]


Credits and Attributions:

[1] Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:MJ Heade Passion Flowers and Hummingbirds.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:MJ_Heade_Passion_Flowers_and_Hummingbirds.jpg&oldid=577409420 (accessed July 29, 2021).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “Martin Johnson Heade,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Martin_Johnson_Heade&oldid=1013422150 (accessed July 29, 2021).

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