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Florida Artists: Martin Johnson Heade
A major figure in American art, Martin Johnson Heade, resided in St. Augustine the latter part of his life. His years spent in Florida were some of his most productive and it is where he created his most brilliant floral paintings. Heade's stature as a leading American painter was not firmly established until the 1960's and his first one-man exhibition was not until 1969, 65 years after his death. Martin Johnson Heade's paintings can be viewed in major museums throughout the country.

Martin Johnson Heade was a prolific American painter known for his salt marsh landscapes, seascapes, portraits of tropical birds, and still lifes. His painting style and subject matter, while derived from the romanticism of the time, is regarded by art historians as a significant departure from that of his peers.

Martin Johnson Heade was born in 1819 in Lumberville, Pennsylvania, a small hamlet along the Delaware River in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and spent his childhood there. Until the mid 1850s, his family ran what is now called the Lumberville Store and Post Office, the village's sole general store. The family spelling of the name was Heed. Historians believe Martin Johnson Heade received his first art training from the folk artist Edward Hicks, who lived in the area. By 1839 Heade had painted his first portraits and, after traveling abroad and living in Rome for two years, in 1841 he exhibited his first work at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Heade began exhibiting regularly in 1848, after another trip to Europe, and became an itinerant artist until he settled in New York in 1859.

Around 1857 Martin Johnson Heade became interested in landscape painting, partly by meeting the established artists John Frederick Kensett and Benjamin Champney in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Heade moved to New York City and took a studio in a building that housed many of the famous Hudson River School artists of the time. He became socially and professionally acquainted with them, and struck up a particularly close friendship with Frederic Edwin Church.


../../Blue Morpho Butterfly by Martin Johnson HeadeMartin Johnson Heade's primary interest in landscape, and the works for which he is perhaps best known today, was the New England coastal salt marsh. Contrary to typical Hudson River School displays of scenic mountains, valleys, and waterfalls, Heade's marsh landscapes avoided depictions of grandeur. They focused instead on the horizontal expanse of subdued scenery, and employed repeating motifs that included small haystacks and diminutive figures. Heade also concentrated on the depiction of light and atmosphere in his marsh scenes. These and similar works have led some historians to characterize Heade as a Luminist painter.

In 1883 Martin Johnson Heade moved to Saint Augustine, Florida and took as his primary landscape subject the surrounding subtropical marshland. During his later years in St. Augustine Heade also painted numerous still lifes of southern flowers, especially magnolia blossoms laid on velvet. This was a continuation of an interest in still life that Heade had developed since the 1860s. His earlier works in this genre typically depict a display of flowers arranged in an ornate vase of small or medium size on a cloth-covered table. Martin Johnson Heade was the only 19th century American artist to create such an extensive body of work in both still life and landscape.

Heade was not a famous artist during his time, and for much of the first part of the 20th century was nearly forgotten. A re-awakening of interest in American 19th century art around World War II sparked new appreciation of his work, and art historians have come to consider him as one of the most important American artists of his generation. His work has inspired contemporary artists including and David Bierk and Ian Hornak. Martin Johnson Heade's work has been preserved at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Amon Carter Museum, and at other major museums.  

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Florida Artist
Lanscape Painter
Martin Johnson Heade was a prolific American painter known for his salt marsh landscapes, seascapes, portraits of tropical birds, and still lifes. His painting style and subject matter, while derived from the romanticism of the time, is regarded by art historians as a significant departure from that of his peers.
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