Orchid and Hummingbird near a Mountain Waterfall

Martin Johnson Heade

Orquídea y colibrí cerca de una cascada

Heade, Martin Johnson

Lumberville, 1819 - Saint Augustine, 1904

Orchid and Hummingbird near a Mountain Waterfall, 1902

© Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza

Signed and dated lower right: ''M. J. Heade, 1902''
Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Oil on canvas

38,2 x 51,5 cm

CTB.1979.44

Artwork history

  • Joseph Bradley Heed. (the artist’s step-brother).

  • Charles Rittenhouse Heed, Philadelphia (PA). (his son).

  • Charles Heed, Devon (PA). (his son).

  • Mrs. Sally Turner, New Jersey.

  • Andrew Crispo Gallery, New York, 1979.

  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano, 1979.

  • Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid.

1979

Nineteenth- and Twentieh- Century American Paintings and Sculpture, New York, Andrew Crispo Gallery, nº 19.

1979 - 1980

America & Europe. A Century of Modern Masters from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Perth, Art Gallery of Western Australia; Adelaide, Art Gallery of South Australia; Brisbane, Queensland Art Gallery; Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria; Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales; Wellington, New Zealand, National Art Gallery; Auckland, Auckland City Art Gallery; Christchurch, Robert McDougall Art Gallery; Dunedin, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, nº 18.

1980 - 1981

Splendor of the 19th Century in America, New York (NY), Andrew Crispo Gallery, nº 15.

1983

Maestri Americani della Collezione Thyssen-Bornemisza, Vatican City, Musei Vaticani, nº 19.

1984

Maestri Americani della Collezione Thyssen-Bornemisza, Lugano, Villa Malpensata, nº 18.

1984 - 1986

American Masters: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Baltimore (MD), The Baltimore Museum of Art; Detroit (MI), The Detroit Institute of Arts; Denver (CO), Denver Art Museum; San Antonio (TX), Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute; New York (NY), IBM Gallery of Arts and Sciences; San Diego (CA), San Diego Museum of Art; Palm Beach (FL), The Society of the Four Arts, nº 21.

1996

De Canaletto a Kandinsky. Obras maestras de la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, nº 49, p. 142.

1996 - 1997

From Zurbaran to Picasso. Masterpieces from the Collection of Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Shanghai, Shanghai Museum; Beijing, China National Art Gallery, p. 82.

1997

Capolavori dalla Collezione di Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza: 60º anniversario dell'apertura della Pinacotecca di Villa Favorita, Lugano, Villa Favorita, nº 50, p. 142.

1999 - 2000

Naturalezas pintadas de Brueghel a Van Gogh. Pintura naturalista en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, nº 33, p. 108.

2000 - 2001

Explorar el Edén. Paisaje americano del siglo XIX, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, nº 54, p. 169.

2018

Natura en evolució. De van Goyen a Pissarro y Sacharoff. Col.lecció Carmen Thyssen. Espai Carmen Thyssen, Sant Feliu de Guíxols. P. 62-63 & 164.

  • -Stebbins, Theodore E. Jr.: The Life and Works of Martin Johnson Heade. New Haven (CT), 1975, nº 363, illus.

  • -America & Europe, a century of modern masters from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. [Exhib. Cat. Perth, Art Gallery of Western Australia – Christchurch, Robert McDougall Art Gallery, 1979-80]. Sydney, Australian Gallery Directors Council, 1979, pp. 10, 138, illus. [ Sheet by Zafran].

  • -Novak, Barbara: Nineteenth-Century American Painting: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Ellis, Elizabeth Garrity… [et al.]. London, Sotheby´s Publications, 1986 , nº 30, pp. 128-129, illus. [ Sheet by Manthorne].

  • -Proddow, P. and Healy, D.: ”Tiffany’s Orchids of 1889”. In Antiques. April 1988 , p. 903, illus.

  • -Manthorne, K. E.: Tropical Renaissance. North American Artists Exploring Latin America, 1839-1879. Washington (DC), 1989, p. 130.

  • -De Canaletto a Kandinsky. Obras maestras de la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, [Exhib. Cat. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza], 1996, n. 49, p. 142.

  • -From Zurbaran to Picasso. Masterpieces from the Collection of Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Shanghai, Shanghai Museum; Pekín, China National Art Gallery, [Exhib. Cat. China],  1996, p. 82.

  • -Capolavori dalla Collezione di Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza: 60º anniversario dell’apertura della Pinacotecca di Villa Favorita, Lugano, Villa Favorita, 1997, [Exhib. Cat. Villa Favorita], 1997, n. 50, p. 142.

  • -Naturalezas pintadas de Brueghel a Van Gogh. Pintura naturalista en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, [Exhib. Cat. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza],  1999, n. 33, p. 108.

  • -Explorar el Edén. Paisaje americano del siglo XIX, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, [Exhib. Cat. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza], 2000, n. 54, p. 169.

  • -García Martín, P.: Imagines Paradisi. Historia de la percepción del paisaje en la Europa moderna (ca. 1450-ca. 1875). Madrid, 2000, nº 75, p. 409, illus.

  • -Stebbins, Theodore E. Jr.: The Life and Work of Martin Johnson Heade: A Critical Analysis and Catalogue Raisonné. Comey, Janet L. and Quinn, Karen. New Haven (CT) – London, Yale University Press, 2000, nº 609, p. 349, illus.

  • -Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Arnaldo, Javier (ed.). 2 vols. Madrid, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2004, vol. 1, p. 272, illus. p. 273 [ Sheet by Katherine E. Manthorne].

  • -Alarcó, P. and Borobia, M. (eds.): Collection guide. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2012, p. 211, illus.

     

  • -Natura en evolució. De van Goyen a Pissarro y Sacharoff. Col.lecció Carmen Thyssen. Espai Carmen Thyssen, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, 2018, p. 62-63 & 164 .[Exhib. Cat.]  [ Sheet by Katherine E. Manthorne].

Expert report

Heade’s pictures of hummingbirds in combination with orchids (or occasionally passion flowers) arguably stand as his most significant contribution to the history of art. They represent an amalgam of his impressions of the tropical world: the birds he studies in Brazil in 1863-1864 and the flowers that captured his imagination on the island of Jamaica six years later. Visually dense and iconographically complex, they weave together Heade’s responses to contemporary science, art, and tropical America, which continued to engage him through his last years.

This canvas was painted in 1902, when the artist was eighty-three years old, two years before his death. In contrast to most artists, whose later years are often characterised by a decrease in activity and a certain repetition of earlier motifs, Heade’s career had a different trajectory. For in 1883, at the age of sixty-four, he bought his first home in St. Augustine Florida, married for the first time, and found his first sustaining patron in the person of Henry Flagler. He began to paint the Florida swamps -striking for their affinity to his favoured regions of Central and South America- and continued to essay his still life and orchid and hummingbird pictures.Orchid and Hummingbird near a Mountain Waterfall is a fine example of this genre, where the artist demonstrated his inventiveness by combining an enlarged and commanding foreground flower with the hummingbird before a tropical mountain setting.

Heade’s fascination with hummingbirds offers a key to his pictorialization of Latin America. “A few years after my appearance in this breathing world”, he wrote, “I was attacked by the all-absorbing hummingbird craze and it has never left me since.” In order to see most of the families approximately 320 members one has to travel to equinoctial America, where they make their home. And so Heade determined to go to Brazil, where he would study the bird in its natural habitat and prepare the illustrations for an intended book entitled The Gems of Brazil. Although the book was never realised, the project lived on in the many canvases in which he depicted them singly or in pairs. The loving detail with which he delineated the hummingbird in this canvas of 1902, when his memories of Brazil had long faded, can be attributed to his observations of the hummers he tended as pets during his Florida years. Every aspect of these pictures-the birds themselves, the profusion of tropical vines, and the overripe orchid blossoms-conveys the vitality he sensed in these unique creatures and in their Brazilian forest habitat. They represent the artist’s meditations on the question of the origin of life.

19th century viewers prided themselves on familiarity with the language of flowers, in which different varieties of blossoms were interpreted symbolically. Roses, lilies, nasturtiums all had their associations spelled out in books such as Flora’s Lexicon. The orchid, however, is conspicuously absent from these publications, suggesting that its associations with sexuality were best left unspoken. The boldness of Heade’s composition, in which the orchid’s soft pink petals are pressed against the picture plane, is even more pronounced when seen against this context of Victorian America.

Katherine E. Manthorne