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Martin Johnson Heade Essay

Martin Johnson Heade (originally Heed), the eldest son in a large family of Joseph Howell Heed was born on 11th August, 1819 in Lumberville, a small rural location near Doylestown in Bucks country of Pennsylvania (Hollis Taggart Galleries, Para. 1). His father owned a farm and a lumber mill. His life is said to have been influenced by the two cousins, Thomas Hicks and Edward Hicks who probably taught him his first art lessons locally. His passion for art grew considerably in the 1840s, and it is around this time that he took a study tour to England and stayed in Rome Italy for two years.

By the year 1843, he was residing in New York and later moved to Brooklyn, where he changed his name to Heade, and later on moved to Philadelphia (Hollis Taggart Galleries, Para. 2). In 1848, he took his second academic European tour to return later in 1850. The second trip did not leave him settled either, as he continued to travel while settling down briefly in the towns of St. Louis, New Haven and Providence. It was in this decade that he deeply studied and explored the effects of light on the environment, a subject that was equally dear to American Luminists Sanford Gifford, John Kensett C as well as Fitz Lane Hugh.

Consequently he fully got into landscape painting (Hollis Taggart Galleries, Para. 2). In 1859, he rented a studio in the famous tenth street studio building in New York and became a full time painter (Lurie and Mappen, Pp. 355. ) It is in relation to this that he is remembered for his flora, fauna and landscape paintings that do not only have a rich effect of color and light but could also portray some poetic sentiments. Its while operating from the same studio that he met Fredric Edwin Church from the Hudson River school who was later to become his close friend and associate.

This period is seen as the turning point in his life as it signaled the onset of his unique lifestyle and a lasting interest in landscape and paintings. In 1863, he interpreted the chaste Latin American coastal landscape in a unique manner and later toured Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in the same year (Hollis Taggart Galleries Para 3). The goal of the tour was to illustrate a complete different version of South American Hummingbirds. He was so enthusiastic about the Hummingbirds that he hoped to prepare an outstanding and an elegant album about these creatures in Britain.

Though he hoped to have this album published in Britain, it was never to happen. Hummingbirds however continued to be a dear subject to him as evidenced by the paintings that he did in the rest of life. He continued making trips to the Latin America notably in Nicaragua, Colombia, Jamaica and Panama. In the course of those visits, he studied the local flora and fauna, painting both large and small landscapes of hummingbirds and orchids, works that saw him get recognition at the gallery exhibition in New York and Boston. At the age of sixty four in 1883, Heade got married and moved to St Augustine in Florida.

This is where he was to spend the rest of his life while he continued to exhibit his paintings in northern towns such as Boston and Springfield Massachusetts. He was almost forgotten in the New York City but was later rediscovered during the revival of the Hudson River painting school and has from then on been accorded the respect and major status that he commanded out of his outstanding work. In Florida, an oil tycoon and hotel magnate Henry Morris Flagger invited Heade to set up another studio, which was to be last studio, in a building behind Ponce De Leon, a hotel that was owed by Flagger in St Augustine.

In his two decades stay at St Augustine prior to his death on September 4 1904, he continued to paint while fascinated by the flora and fauna located in Florida. His works were mainly Cherokee roses, orchids and magnolias (Hollis Taggart Galleries, Para. 4). The works could often depicted the same flower over and over again but in different blooming states thus bringing out the hidden beauty of the environment that is not obvious to many. During his stay in St Augustine Florida and prior to his death, Heade made more than one hundred and fifty pieces of work .

Most of this work focused on the exuberant nature and landscape, flowers, sceneries and fruits of the American south , topics that were dear to him also. It is against this background that he is remembered, having not only taken a lot if interest in a rare subject but also having pursued it with vigor, passion and up to the old age. He did what he liked most and did it best. The outstanding feature of any artistic work done by Heade is their capture of their botanic and scientific accuracy.

They note every line on the leaf, every mark on the facet, fruit or blossom. The figures below are example of the artistic work done by the 19th century artist and depict the mystery surrounding him and his interest in the natural world. Though the work was done more than a century ago, the beauty and elegance has surpassed the passage time. Fig. 1 Source: http://www. martin-johnson-heade. org/ Although little is documented in writing about Martin Johnson Heade as he left no identifiable body of writing, his contribution to the field of art and painting is immense.

Such is evidenced by the Martin Johnson Heade, a function organized and premiering at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boson from the 29th day of September 1999 through the 17th of January 2000 which shed light on Martin Johnson Heade as one of the most original and all time artists in the history of mankind (Traditional Fine Art Online Inc, Para. 1). MFA owns an outstanding collection of work done by Heade including about 30 paintings, numerous drawings and other materials such as sketches and sketch books that he used.

Although he was practically unknown during his own days, Heade is today also recognized in America as a great romantic painter and uniquely as a master landscape painter as far as floral still life is concerned. With a career that spanned over seventy years, a lot went to his name’s credit as noted during the function organized by MFA, having produced a varied body of work more than any other American artist of the 19th century. “Martin Johnson Heade is sure to give new insights into the work of one of the most intriguing of American artists, whose paintings have a strange and almost surreal intensity.

Heade was one of America’s most productive and inventive artists, and his work reflects a wide range of talent and creativity. The exemplary work captures such a variety of moods, from his atmospheric effects, the glory of light, the sumptuous warmth of his orchids and tropical scenes, and the inexplicable sensuality of so many of his works in every genre. I hope recognition of his genius grows as more and more people are introduced to these superb paintings” (Traditional Fine Art Online Inc, Para. 6).

During the popular Mesueum of Fine Arts event, Heade’s favourite hummingbirds painting was revisited. It was recounted that even if he never managed to secure the two hundred subscriptions needed to print his expensive book, which was never printed anyway, he produced four hummingbird chromolithographs for the book and could at the time be viewed in Boston as well as the sixteen paintings that were intended for the gems of Brazil from the Manoogian collection (Traditional Fine Art Online Inc, Para.

7). Earlier on in 1955, a historian and the then director of Macbeth gallery Robert Mclntyre had donated some work done by Heade to the Archives of American Art. Such included his sketch book, notebooks as well as letters and correspondeces between him and his close friend and associate Fredric Edwin Church between the year 1866 and 1899. In addition, they included a detailed notebook about hummingbirds that is handwritten as well as a circa dated in the range between 1853 to 1877.

The scattred papers measure 0. 3 linear feet and date between 1853 and 1904. In the year 2007, the above were completely digitized to enhance archiving and are now avilable online as the Martin Johnson Heade Papers Online. They had first received a preliminary level of processing immediately after donation before being microfilmed in the same order that they were donated. The notebook and the sketchbook being the first ones to have been donated were therefore proffesionally conserved in the year 2004.

Another area that is seen to have captured Heade’s passion is still lifes of southern flowers especially the magnolia blossoms laid on velevet. This was an advancement of an interest that he had since the 1860’s. In his earlier work in this genre, he had done flowers keenly arranged in an ormate flower vase and placed either on small or a large table, but covered with a mere cloth as opposed to velvet. At the time, he was the first and the only american artist who could create such an extensive body of work either in still lifes or in landscape and environment.

In 2004, Heade was again recognized and honored with an outstanding stamp from the United States Postal Servive featuring a piece of his 1890 oil-on-canvas painting otherwise called Giant magnolias on a blue Velvet cloth. There were few artists who emulated head in the 20th century owing to the fact that he was unpopular at the time. However his work and art has been duplicated and forged by many especially in the 20th and 21st century.

Such is attributed to the way his work has continued to turn up in garage sales as well as other unlikely places as opposed to works by other artists such as his friend Fredric Edward Church or ohn Kensett.. The popularity of his work can be attributed to the way he related with middle class buyers, his outstanding passion and effort put in as depicted in his various trips and his willigness to distribute his work all the country. Though unknown to him even at the end of his life, Martin johnson Heade was one of the most outstanding artist that ever existed on the face of earth.

His passion in what was then an unpopular venture tells it all. His keen interpretation and approach towards the light and the environmet at large, his representation of the same on his paintings as well as his vigor and dedication to distribute his work, all leave no doubt that he did what he loved and in return loved what he did. His work does not only reveal what is unobvious to many but also unearths what is sincerely unknown and his spirit therefore continues to live moreso through his elegant work.

Martin Johnson Heade is no doubt a legend whose life deserves recognition by and over generations while his work continues to demand respect over centuries. Works Cited: Hollis Taggart Galleries. “Hollis Taggart Gallaries. ” 2007. 26 May 2010 <http://www. hollistaggart. com/artists/biography/martin_johnson_heade/>. Mappen, Marc and Maxine N Lurie. Encyclopedia of New Jersey. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2004. Traditional Fine Art Online Inc. “Meseum of Fine Arts Boston. ” 29 September 1999. www. mfa. org. 26 May 2010 <http://www. tfaoi. com/newsm1/n1m630. htm>.


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