Friday, August 10, 2012

Heade, Martin Johnson

Light and shadow: the Newbury Marshes
oil on canvas
30.5 x 67.3 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA

Martin Johnson Heade (1819 - 1904) was a prolific 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. He was born in Lumberville, Pennsylvania, the son of a storekeeper. His earliest works were produced during the 1840s and were chiefly portraits. Friendships with artists of the Hudson River School led to an interest in landscape art. He traveled to the tropics several times thereafter, and continued to paint birds and flowers.

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 best known works are depictions of light and shadow upon the salt marshes of New England. His paintings are occasionally discovered in unlikely places such as garage sales and flea markets.