Excerpt from the exhibition:
Nature and the American Vision: The Hudson River School
Milwaukee Art Museum
February 26 - May 8, 2016
Martin Johnson Heade, 1819-1904
Although his landscapes share this interest with the artists of the Hudson River School, and he was a friend of a number of “these movement artists,” Martin Johnson Heade does not fit easily into the idealized and drama-filled output of his fellow artists. Instead, his landscapes are eerie in their precision and ominous in their use of atmosphere, reflecting a very personal approach to the subject matter. He traveled to South America a number of times and painted a series of close-up examinations of plants and animals, hybrids of still life and landscape that create the uncanny impression that these are living characters enacting roles on nature’s stage. Although orchids were of scholarly and popular interest in the nineteenth century, critics rarely mentioned Heade’s numerous orchid-and-hummingbird subjects, probably because of the plant’s sexual connotations and the bird’s role in the flower’s reproductive process.
[Image: Martin Johnson Heade, Study of an Orchid, 1872 [PDF] The New York Historical Society, The Robert L. Stuart Collection, the gift of his widow Mrs. Mary Stuart]