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Martin Johnson Heade papers, 1853-1904

Biographical Note

Martin Johnson Heade was born in Lumberville, Pennsylvania, in 1819. He studied art under painter Edward Hicks, and began his career as a portrait painter. After traveling abroad and living in Rome for two years, he made his artistic debut in 1841 at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Heade began exhibiting regularly in 1848, after another trip to Europe, and became an itinerant artist until he settled in New York in 1859. In the early 1860s he turned to painting landscapes and seascapes, in which he could explore spatial structure and the effects of light. During this period he became friends with fellow landscape painter, Frederic Edwin Church, one of his few friends in the art world, and with whom he exchanged letters for over thirty years. Besides landscapes, Heade painted many still-lifes of flowers. After trips to South and Central America in 1863-1864, 1866, and 1870, he began painting hummingbirds and orchids in tropical settings. Heade was never fully accepted by the New York art establishment and for a period of time resumed his itinerant lifestyle. In 1883 he settled in Saint Augustine, Florida and married. He also found a patron, Henry Morrison Flagler, to commission his work, and continued to paint still-lifes, swamp scenes, and hummingbirds, until his death in 1904.