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Magnolias on Light Blue Velvet Cloth

Still life of sensuously detailed painting of four white magnolias lying on blue velvet cloth.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Still life of sensuously detailed painting of four white magnolias lying on blue velvet cloth.




Martin Johnson Heade
American, 1819–1904

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.

On View

Arts of the Americas, Gallery 173


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.)

Credit Line

Restricted gift of Gloria and Richard Manney; Harold L. Stuart Endowment

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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