Martin Johnson Heade, 1819-1904
The Magnolia Blossom, 1888
Oil on canvas, 38.4 x 61.3 cm (15-1/8 x 24-1/8 in.)
Martin Johnson Heade initially became known for his New England landscapes and still lifes of Brazilian hummingbirds and orchids. Later in life, in 1883, he moved to Florida, which marked an important turning point in his career. Of the new flowers that interested him, the giant magnolia became the chief theme of his late still lifes.
In this painting, he gives the voluptuous blossom an added note of luxury by placing it on a generous and striking red cloth. The flower and leaves are perfect, without natural flaws that would mar their surfaces. The color contrasts, the crisp edges of both leaves and petals, and the realistic treatment of light give the forms a strong presence and heighten their symbolic sensuality.
U.S. Senator George Hearst of California, Washington, D.C.
Given on May 2, 1890, to Peter Petersen Toft, London
William Postar, Boston
Acquired by the Putnam Foundation, 1965