About this artwork
This sensuous and decorative image dates from the later part of Martin Johnson Heade’s long, varied, and peripatetic career. Traveling through much of the United States, to England and continental Europe, and (three different times) to Brazil, he produced work ranging from pristine views of East Coast salt marshes and lush tropical landscapes to pictures of exotic hummingbirds and orchids. At the age of sixty-four, Heade settled in Saint Augustine, Florida. There he began painting detailed arrangements of native flowers, including the Cherokee rose, orange blossom, and magnolia. Stretched out like an odalisque on blue velvet cloth, the curvaceous magnolia was meticulously rendered in pale, subtle hues and illuminated by a light so sharp that the image evokes the hyperintensity of a dream. The warm, steamy atmosphere is almost palpable, as is the blossom’s heady, pungent scent. The Art Institute’s Magnolias is one of a number of compositions by the artist featuring this dramatic yet delicate white flower.
- Martin Johnson Heade
- Magnolias on Light Blue Velvet Cloth
- c. 1885–1895
- Oil on canvas
- Signed, lower right: "M. J. Heade"
- 38.6 × 61.8 cm (15 1/4 × 24 3/8 in.)
- Restricted gift of Gloria and Richard Manney; Harold L. Stuart Endowment