Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Heade, Martin Johnson
Collection: American Collection
Specialty: Paintings
View Artwork
Born in Pennsylvania in 1819, Martin Johnson Heade, was taught figure
painting by the Quaker "primitive" Edward Hicks and worked as a hack
portraitist until the 1850's when he met and fell under the influence of
Frederic Church and became a member of the later Hudson River School.
Church showed him how expressive light in a landscape could be. But soon,
rather than the romantic sweep and majestic scale of Church's work, Heade
was painting minimalist landscapes of haunting beauty, joining a new group
of painters. These artists used simple light, space, and an implicit
silence to express, in the words of scholar Vincent Scully, "some enduring
love of the soul's still voice". In 1954, art critic John I.H. Baur
christened this movement in nineteenth century landscape painting,
"luminism", for its key attribute, "the unique sense of light that seems
to emanate from the painting itself." The luminists opted for quietly
austere works which, as critic Robert Hughes points out, focus on
atmospheric effects rather than pictorial drama. Heade created, in
Hughes's words, "a sense of quiet awe at boundless space; light turns
matter into spirit."

Just as the luminists moved to the forefront as the Hudson River School
began to go out of style during the tumult of the Civil War, so too the
luminists eventually gave way to the increasing popularity of the
Barbizon-influenced, impressionistic style of landscape. When the public
lost its taste for luminist landscapes, Heade, who had moved from the
North Atlantic coast to Florida by that time, continued to use the same
technique, but focused on floral still lifes, creating composition after
composition of orchids and hummingbirds, roses, and giant magnolias. Set
against a plain, uncluttered background, his flowers possessed an almost
sculptural quality and were treated with the same delicate orchestration
of light and color that had been true of his landscapes. In recent years
these luminous works have been rediscovered to renewed appreciation and
accorded major status in art circles.

Everl Adair, Director of Research and Rare Collections