Martin Johnson Heade
Martin Johnson Heade, American, Brazilian Forest, 1864, Oil on canvas; 51 x 40.6 cm (20 1/8 x 16 inches), Gift of Mr. and Mrs. C. Richard Steedman 68.052
In late 1863 Martin Johnson Heade traveled to Brazil on a joint scientific and artistic mission. Seeking local species of hummingbirds to depict in oil paintings and chromolithographs, he also indulged his botanical interests by making carefully annotated sketches of the flora of Brazil’s dense forests, and relied on these the following year when he painted this picture in his London studio. The painting’s featured specimen, a tall fern that springs from the right foreground, is bathed in a soft light that distinguishes the structure of each frond. As a narrative touch, Heade added a figure in a straw hat and a tiny dog who discover the sparkling waterfall at the center of the composition.