Nesting Hummingbirds, Brazilian Landscape | Martin Johnson Heade | Art Print | Tropical Forest
In 1863, the renowned landscape and still-life artist Martin Johnson Heade embarked on a journey to South America, inspired by the achievements of fellow artist Frederic Edwin Church and the work of artist-ornithologists John James Audubon and John Gould. During this time, an article in the Boston Transcript declared, "He intends to capture the most vibrant and exquisite members of the hummingbird family in Brazil, a subject he is deeply passionate about. He is fulfilling a childhood dream." (quoted in J.L. Comey, “The Gems of Brazil,” Martin Johnson Heade, Boston, Massachusetts, 1999, p. 71).
Heade's fascination with tropical flora and fauna led him to dedicate his time to studying and painting hummingbirds in Brazil from 1863 to 1865. He also made subsequent trips to Nicaragua in 1866 and Colombia, Panama, and Jamaica in 1870. His masterpiece, "Nesting Hummingbirds, Brazilian Landscape," not only showcases the knowledge he acquired during his expeditions through tropical regions but also reflects his lifelong sense of wonder and admiration for the mysterious, lush jungles of South America and their remarkable wildlife.
Heade's early interest in the enchanting hummingbird had a profound impact on his artistic career, motivating him to study the species meticulously to capture its miniature magnificence. As stated by R.C. McIntyre in "Martin Johnson Heade" (New York, 1948, p. 12), "The beauty and incredible speed of this tiny, brilliant 'flower of the air' left such a lasting impression on him that it sparked a strong urge to explore its habits and immortalize its fleeting beauty and exquisite iridescence on canvas."
In "Nesting Hummingbirds, Brazilian Landscape," Heade painstakingly portrays the distinct coloring and characteristics of a pair of crimson topaz hummingbirds (Topaza pella), the largest hummingbird species native to Brazil. The male, perched on a higher branch, is recognizable by the two elongated tail feathers hanging below his resting place. His vibrant hot pink feathers and acid yellow-green throat stand out against the gray-green backdrop. Janet L. Comey (in "The Gems of Brazil," Martin Johnson Heade, Boston, Massachusetts, 1999, p. 74) explains Heade's technical approach to capturing the iridescence of hummingbirds' plumage, which involved layering paint and applying a thin glaze of natural rose madder over a reflective, textured underlayer to convey the feathers' shimmering quality.
What makes Heade's hummingbird paintings extraordinary is their blend of scientific precision and artistic creativity, which beautifully captures the natural beauty of these distant lands. In "Nesting Hummingbirds, Brazilian Landscape," Heade portrays the female tending to the nest while her mate guards from a branch directly above. Although these charming postures may not align with ornithological accuracy, they convey a sense of domestic contentment and tranquility, as described by Heade scholar Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr. (in "The Life and Works of Martin Johnson Heade," New Haven, Connecticut, pp. 133-34).
The painting highlights the foreground scene, framed by tree branches as repoussoir elements, with bright bird colors and red-spotted leaves in the foreground contrasting with the hazy purples of the distant mountain vista. The lush greens of the forest and the misty gray of the atmospheric perspective create a vivid sense of the vibrancy and fertility of the natural environment.
Unlike his predecessors Audubon and Gould, who leaned toward scientific accuracy, Heade's work, like "Nesting Hummingbirds, Brazilian Landscape," captures the nineteenth-century fascination with cataloging the natural world along with the Victorian appreciation of nature's transcendental power. As described by T.E. Stebbins, Jr. (in "Martin Johnson Heade," Boston, Massachusetts, 1999, p. 9), Heade was a romantic masquerading as a realist in all of his mature works. While he observed hummingbirds, orchids, and passionflowers with the eye of a naturalist, his paintings are more about memory and imagination than mere observation, reflecting the richness of the painter's creative vision.
Artist: Martin Johnson Heade
Museum-quality poster made on thick and long-lasting matte (uncoated) paper.
Paper weight: 200 gsm / 80 lb
Available in a variety of sizes to suit your preferences.
Please note that frames are not included with the purchase of the print. They are shown for display purposes only.
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