The Marshes at Rhode Island

Martin Johnson Heade

Pantanos en Rhode Island

Heade, Martin Johnson

Lumberville, 1819 - Saint Augustine, 1904

The Marshes at Rhode Island, 1866

© Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza

Signed lower right: ''M. J. Heade 1866''
Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Oil on canvas

56 x 91,4 cm


Artwork history

  • Cornelius Moore, Newport (RI).

  • Ms. Julian Armistead, Brooklyn (NY).

  • Parke- Bernet Galleries, Inc., lot 134, New York, October 27th-28th, 1971. (The work is listed as: “Puesta de sol, pantanos de Newburyport”).

  • Berry Hill Galleries, New York.

  • Private collection, New York.

  • A.C.A. Galleries, New York.

  • Andrew Crispo Galleries, New York.

  • Sotheby´s, lot 74, New York, December 3rd, 1987.

  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano, 1987.

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

1980 - 1981

Splendor of the 19th Century in America, New York (NY), Andrew Crispo Gallery, nº 18.


American Masters of the Nineteenth Century and Twentieth Centuries, New York, Andrew Crispo Gallery.

1983 - 1984

The Rediscovery of Nature: An Anthology of 19th Century Lanscape Painting in the West, Kobe, Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art; Morioka, Iwate Prefectural Museum; Urawa, Saitama Prefectural Museum; Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefectural Museum; Kitakyushu, Kitakyushu Municipal Museum, nº T65, p. 153.


American Landscape Painting, New York, Andrew Crispo Gallery, nº 43.


De Canaletto a Kandinsky. Obras maestras de la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, nº 44, p. 132.

1996 - 1997

From Zurbaran to Picasso. Masterpieces from the Collection of Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Shanghai, Shanghai Museum; Beijing, China National Art Gallery, p. 80.


Capolavori dalla Collezione di Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza: 60º anniversario dell'apertura della Pinacotecca di Villa Favorita, Lugano, Villa Favorita, nº 55, p. 154.


Del vedutismo a las primeras vanguardias. Obras maestras de la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, nº 16, p. 92.

1998 - 1999

Masterworks from the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum; Takaoka, Takaoka Art Museum; Nagoya, Matsuzaka Art Museum; Sendai, Miyagi Museum of Art, nº 18, p. 54.


Aspectos de la tradición paisajística en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Málaga, Salas de Exposiciones del Palacio Episcopal, nº 51, p. 168.

1999 - 2000

Naturalezas pintadas de Brueghel a Van Gogh. Pintura naturalista en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, nº 30, pp. 102-103.

2000 - 2001

Explorar el Edén. Paisaje americano del siglo XIX, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, nº 33, p. 136.


Landschaften von Brueghel bis Kandinsky. Die Ausstellung zu Ehren des Sammlers Hans Heinrich Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza, Bonn, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, nº 41, p. 120.


Il trionfo del colore. Collezione Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Kandinsky, Rome, Palazzo Ruspoli, p. 72.


Paraísos y paisajes en la Colección Carmen Thyssen. De Brueghel a Gauguin, Málaga, Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga, nº 14, pp. 94-95, illus. p. 95.


Sisley, Kandinsky, Hopper. Col·lecció Carmen Thyssen, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Espai Carmen Thyssen, p. 24, illus. p. 25.

  • -Stebbins, Theodore E. Jr.: The Life and Works of Martin Johnson Heade. New Haven (CT), 1975, nº 102, p. 232, illus.

  • -Storm Nagy, E.: Europa e America. Dipinti e acquerelli dell’ Ottocento e del Novecento dalla Collezione Thyssen-Bornemisza. Guida delle opere esposte. Milan, 1993, nº 23, p. 44, illus.

  • -De Canaletto a Kandinsky. Obras maestras de la colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. [Exhib. Cat. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza]. Llorens Serra, Tomàs (ed.). Madrid, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, 1996 , nº 44, p. 132. [Sheet by Kenneth W. Maddox].

  • -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 138, p. 235, illus.

  • -Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Arnaldo, Javier (ed.). 2 vols. Madrid, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2004, vol. 1, p. 266, illus. p. 267 [ Sheet by Kenneth W. Maddox].

  • -Alarcó, P. and Borobia, M. (eds.): Collection guide. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2012, p. 210, illus.

Expert report

Martin Johnson Heade was always closely identified with the salt marshes of Eastern United States. James Jackson Jarves, writing in 1864, saw the meadows as his speciality. Heade painted their “wearisome horizontal lines and perspective, with a profuse supply of the hay-ricks to vary the monotony of flatness, but flooded with rich sun-glow and sense of summer warmth”; three years later Henry T. Tuckerman echoed Jarves’ words, as he praised how Heade “especially succeeds in representing marsh-lands, with hay-ricks, and the peculiar atmospheric effects thereof.” Heade was aware of the delicate beauty of the salt marshes, with their display of changing light. In Harriet Spofford’s description of Newburyport which appeared in Harper’s Monthly Magazine in 1875, she wrote: “he who desires to see a meadow in perfection, full of emerald and golden tints and claret shadows, withdrawing into distance till lost in the sparkle of the sea, must seek it here, where Heade found material for his dainty marsh and meadow views […].” The demand was so great for Heade’s paintings of the marsh and he was so successful, that C. E. Clement and L. Hutton wrote in 1879, that “he has probably painted more of them than any of other class of subject”. Over one hundred of Heade’s marsh paintings survive today, the finest painted in the late 1860s.

The gathering of the salt hay, which grew naturally along the flooded coastal areas of the United States, required a community of labourers -mowers, rakers, stackers- during the time of its harvest. Although early in his career Heade painted genre and allegorical subjects, he chose to follow neither his European counterparts, Jules Breton and Jean-François Millet, nor such later Americans as Eastman Johnson or Winslow Homer in depicting the human activity during the gathering of the hay. Instead, Heade’s paintings, for the most part, are scenes devoid of signs of active labour; like Claude Monet, who also chose to portray uninhabited landscapes displaying the labours of harvest in the 1890s, his haystacks are elegiac responses to the evanescent conditions of light, atmosphere and seasonal changes.

The Marshes at Rhode Island is larger than most of Heade’s marsh scenes, and the haywagon, a motif he often used, is a more prominent part of the landscape. The wagon, partially loaded with hay, rests on the firm ground above the tidal marsh; before it protruding from a pile of rocks is the handle of a rake left by the departed harvesters. Stretching over the marshy ground to the horizon are haystacks. Hay was carried by horse and wagon or boated from the marsh during high tide at the time of harvest; but endless rows of haystacks were also left in the marshes until winter, when the ground was frozen and the hay could more easily be retrieved. The haycart, silhouetted against the twilight, suggests the transitory nature of man’s labour, a poignancy underscored in Jersey Meadows, with Ruins of a Haycart (c. 1881, formerly New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art) which shows the vestiges of a decrepit wagon abandoned among the stacks of hay.

Kenneth W. Maddox