Martin Johnson Heade: The Enigmatic Self

by Barbara Novak



About the Catalogue

Martin Johnson Heade: A Survey, 1840-1900 by Barbara Novak and Timothy A. Eaton contains 80 pages with 30 color plates and 6 black and white illustrations. ISBN: 096558190X.

Dr. Barbara Novak's 1996 essay examines Heade's enigmatic and iconoclastic character, how it shaped his life and affected his place in American art history. Timothy A. Eaton reviews each work in the exhibition and its relationship to Heade's oeuvre. (right: photo of front cover of catalogue, courtesy Eaton Fine Art. Image is detail from Study of an Orchid, 1872, oil on canvas, 18 x 23 inches, signed and dated lower right, 1872. Collection of the New York Historical Society)


Preface from the Catalogue

As a subject of critical study, Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904) will always remain elusive. He was under- appreciated during his lifetime, forgotten in death, and rediscovered four decades later, yet today he is finally recognized as one of the most important artists America has ever produced. This exhibition and catalogue briefly survey Heade's long and diverse career, yet it is by no means inclusive of all his subjects or periods. Ever since a reevaluation of his career began in 1944, the path to understanding his work and life has been fraught with difficulty. His history continues to be vague: he was an artist who wrote often and copiously, but seldom about his own work or himself; he was a non-joiner at a time when membership in guilds, associations and schools of art were coveted and nearly requisite for success and documentation; and he was a somewhat peripatetic character, making shallow roots and taking a home only in the last quarter of his life. This is the chronicle of a legacy riddled with questions and conjecture. M.J. Heade's history will continue to be researched, his philosophical and aesthetic concerns speculated on, and through his work his character will be examined and slowly revealed; he will, nevertheless, remain enigmatic. His life and art retain, as they should, the inscrutable mysteries of the creative impulse.

-- TAE (Timothy A. Eaton)

About the Authors:

Barbara Novak
Barbara Novak was the Helen Goodhart Altschul Professor of Art History at Barnard and Columbia from 1984 until her retirement in 1998. She is the author of numerous books on American art and culture, including American Painting of the Nineteenth Century: Realism, and the American Experience (1979); Nature and Culture: American Landscape and Painting 1825-1875 (1995), and Nineteenth-Century American Painting: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection (2004). Widely recognized as one of the most influential theorists of American art, Novak has also received the Woman of Achievement Award from the Barnard Alumnae Association in 1985. Novak served on the Advisory Council of the Archives of American Art and the editorial boards of American Art Journal and College Art Journal. She has also been a commissioner of the National Portrait Gallery and a fellow at the Society of American Historians.
Timothy Eaton
Eaton Fine Art was founded in 1995 by Timothy Andrew Eaton. Mr. Eaton is the former chief curator of the Boca Raton Museum of Art and the principle of Eaton/Shoen Gallery in San Francisco. Eaton Fine Art's facility includes a renovated historic Art Moderne building at 435 Gardenia Street, a north gallery addition and a contiguous sculpture garden at 419 Gardenia Street designed by Mary Anna Eaton. In the sculpture garden the gallery presents changing exhibitions and installations on the grounds and around its pavilion.(right: photo of Eaton Fine Art, courtesy Eaton Fine Art)

Resource Library editor's note:

This essay was rekeyed and reprinted on February 14, 2005 in Resource Library with permission of Eaton Fine Art, Inc. The essay was excerpted from the illustrated catalogue for the exhibition Martin Johnson Heade: A Survey: 1840 -1900 held December 20, 1996 - February 22, 1997 at Eaton Fine Art, West Palm Beach, FL. Images accompanying the text in the exhibition catalogue were not reproduced with this reprinting. If you have questions or comments regarding the essay, or if you are interested in obtaining a copy of the catalogue, please contact Eaton Fine Art at either this web address or phone number:

Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Mr. Richard Frank, Director, Eaton Fine Art, Inc., for help concerning permission for reprinting the above text


Regarding the above essay, on April 4, 2009 Eaton Fine Art sent to TFAO an email that states:


Date: Sat Apr 4, 2009 6:46:06 AM US/Pacific

To: info@tfa...

Subject: Joseph Stella: Flora

Dear TFAO,

I would like to include an errata for our Joseph Stella catalogue listing. On page two of four of the Barbara Novak essay "The Flower Paintings of Joseph Stella," the first paragraph, fifth sentence, "Berlin born Stieglitz" should read "Berlin educated Stieglitz."

Thank you in advance for adding this errata straightaway.

Kind regards,

Nichole M. Hickey

Assistant Director

Eaton Fine Art, Inc.

435 Gardenia Street

West Palm Beach, Florida 33041

Telephone: 561 833 4766

Telecopie: 561 833 3134


Resource Library readers may also enjoy these articles concerning Martin Johnson Heade:

and these books:

Robert George McIntyre, Martin Johnson Heade, 1819-1904 (Pantheon Press, 1948, ASIN: B0007DNL8I)

--, Martin J. Heade, 1819-1904: As represented in the M. & M. Karolik Collection of American Painting, 1815-1865 (Museum of Fine Arts, 1955, ASIN: B0007F1ISQ)

--, Martin Johnson Heade; [exhibition, organized by the Art Dept., University of Maryland (Art Dept., University of Maryland, 1969, ASIN: B0006CY75G)

Theodore E. Stebbins,Jr., The Life and Works of Martin Johnson Heade (Yale University Press, 1975)

--. Martin Johnson Heade: [exhibition] Flagler Museum, February 7-28, 1981, Cummer Gallery, March 12-May 3, 1981, (Cummer Gallery of Art, 1981, ASIN: B00070XUCS)

--, Martin Johnson Heade: The floral and hummingbird studies from the St. Augustine Historical Society (Boca Raton Museum of Art, 1992, ASIN: B0006OYGT6)

Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr. et. al., Martin Johnson Heade (Yale University Press; 1st ed edition, 1999, ISBN: 0300081693,)

Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr. et. al., The Life and Work of Martin Johnson Heade: A Critical Analysis and Catalogue Raisonné (Yale University Press, 2000, ISBN: 0300081839). Google Books ofers limited preview and says about this book:

Martin Johnson Heade was one of the most significant American painters of the nineteenth century, creator of portraits, history and genre pictures, still lifes, ornithological studies, landscapes, and marines, and his own unique orchid and hummingbird compositions. This book brings a new perspective to Heade and his works, presenting him as one of the most original and productive painters of his time.
Theodore Stebbins builds on his acclaimed 1975 study of Heade, drawing on several newly discovered collections of Heade's letters and the painter's own Brazilian journal. Stebbins tells of Heade's training and early career as an itinerant portraitist and discusses his move to New York, where, under the influence of Frederic E. Church, he began painting landscapes and seascapes. He examines Heade's relationships with patrons and dealers, writers and scientists, and he sheds new light on Heade's trips to Brazil, to the Central American tropics, and to London. And he describes Heade's move to Florida in 1883, which marked not his retirement but a final period of creativity that lasted until his death in 1904. The book includes not only an examination of Heade's life and works but also reproductions of all his 620 known paintings, including nearly 250 that have been discovered since 1975.

Roberta Smith Favis, Martin Johnson Heade in Florida (University Press of Florida, 2003, ISBN: 081302661X


Go to page 1 / 2 / 3 / 4

This is page 5


TFAO also suggests this VHS videos:

Ominous Hush: The Thunderstorm Paintings of Martin Johnson Heade Explores American painter Martin Johnson Heade's (1819-1904) use of storm imagery as metaphor for the American Civil War. 12-minute video. Description source: Amon Carter Museum Teacher Resource Center

TFAO does not maintain a lending library of videos or sell videos. Click here for information on how to borrow or purchase copies of VHS videos and DVDs listed in TFAO's Videos -DVD/VHS, an authoritative guide to videos in VHS and DVD format.

Links to sources of information outside of our web site are provided only as referrals for your further consideration. Please use due diligence in judging the quality of information contained in these and all other web sites. Information from linked sources may be inaccurate or out of date. TFAO neither recommends or endorses these referenced organizations. Although TFAO includes links to other web sites, it takes no responsibility for the content or information contained on those other sites, nor exerts any editorial or other control over them. For more information on evaluating web pages see TFAO's General Resources section in Online Resources for Collectors and Students of Art History. Individual pages in this catalogue will be amended as TFAO adds content, corrects errors and reorganizes sections for improved readability. Refreshing or reloading pages enables readers to view the latest updates.

Visit the Table of Contents for Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

Copyright 2007 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.