Martin Johnson Heade

Floral Painting - Orchid and Hummingbird near a Mountain Waterfall by Martin Johnson Heade

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Rolled Canvas
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Like other artists who travelled to South America, Heade was profoundly impressed by the fertile lushness of the tropics. His first paintings of hummingbirds date from 1863 in Brazil. Later, in 1870, following a trip to Panama, Colombia and Jamaica, the artist conceived of the idea of combining hummingbirds and orchids. The originality of these works, painted by Heade in his studio, lies in their fusion of still life and landscape, resulting in an overall dramatic effect. The juxtaposition of birds and flowers was common in ornithological illustrations but in works such as Orchid and Hummingbird near a Waterfall Heade made use of one of the most striking varieties of orchids, the pink Cattleya labiata, placing it so close to the foreground that the petals seem almost flattened. The small hummingbird creates a dialogue with the flower through the position of its head and the amethyst tone of its throat. In the background a verdant landscape emphasises the sensual and emotive power of the composition.