Today on “Days to Remember” we celebrate how a 12 x 26 painting of a river landscape and sailing vessel created by artist Martin Johnson Heade was sold for the auction on December 7th 2003, for 1 million dollars.
The painting was found in the attic of a suburban Boston home where it had been stored for more than 60 years.
Who was Martin Johnson Heade?
Heade was born in Lumberville, Pennsylvania, the son of a storekeeper. He studied with Edward Hicks, and possibly with Thomas Hicks.
His earliest works were produced during the 1840s and were chiefly portraits. He travelled to Europe several times as a young man, became an itinerant artist on American shores, and exhibited in Philadelphia in 1841 and New York in 1843.
Around 1857 Heade became interested in landscape painting, partly by meeting the established artists John Frederick Kensett and Benjamin Champney in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Heade moved to New York City and took a studio in the Tenth Street Studio Building, which housed many of the famous Hudson River School artists of the time, such as Albert Bierstadt, Sanford Gifford, and Frederic Edwin Church.
He became socially and professionally acquainted with them, and struck up a particularly close friendship with Church. Landscapes would ultimately form a third of Heade’s total oeuvre.
Heade was not a famous artist during his time and for much of the first part of the 20th century was nearly forgotten.
A re-awakening of interest in 19th-century American art around World War II sparked new appreciation of his work.
Heade’s work in particular received critical attention with the exhibition in 1943 of his painting Thunderstorm Over Narragansett Bay (1868), as part of the show “Romantic Painting in America” at the Museum of Modern Art.
Art historians have come to consider him as one of the most important American artists of his generation. His work has inspired contemporary artists such as David Bierk and Ian Hornak.
In 2004, Heade was honored with a stamp from the U.S. Postal Service featuring his 1890 oil-on-canvas painting, “Giant Magnolias on a Blue Velvet Cloth.”
As Stebbins notes in his writings, Heade’s work has also been copied and forged extensively. It should be noted, however, that since Heade was not popular during his lifetime, there were few contemporaries who emulated his work. 20th century copies are therefore readily apparent as fakes, since it takes oil paint decades to dry out and harden.
An unnamed Heade salt marsh landscape now titled “River Scene” was discovered in the attic of a Boston-area resident in 2003.
It sold at a local auction house to an art dealer for $1,006,250 and was featured on the PBS television show, “Find!”
It was purchased by a private collector, and is now on view at the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Written & Designed by JD Mitchell