Sunday, February 10, 2008

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Take 2

Last Sunday at the Met, I inadvertently found myself in the middle of my ongoing Martin Johnson Heade manuscript. On one wall, "The Heart of the Andes" (1859), by Heade's friend, Frederic Edwin Church. Across the gallery, "The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak" (1863) by Albert Bierstadt, who is something of a villain in my poems. On the side wall, Heade's "Approaching Thunderstorm" (1859) and "Newburyport Meadows" (ca. 1876-81?).

To walk into a room and find myself among all this was disorienting, humbling, thrilling. Were it the 19th Century, you might say I swooned.

The Heart of the Andes (1859)
Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826–1900)
Oil on canvas; 66 1/8 x 119 1/4 in. (168 x 302.9 cm)

Bequest of Margaret E. Dows, 1909 (09.95)
This picture was inspired by Church's second trip to South America in the spring of 1857. Church sketched prolifically throughout his nine weeks of travel in Ecuador, and many extant drawings and oil sketches contain elements found in this work. The picture was publicly unveiled in New York at Lyrique Hall, Broadway, on April 27, 1859. Subsequently moved to the gallery of the Tenth Street Studio Building, it was presented in a dark, curtained frame designed to look like a window and illuminated by carefully orchestrated lighting in a darkened chamber. The exhibition caused a sensation, and twelve to thirteen thousand people paid twenty-five cents apiece to see it. The picture was later shown in London and eight other American cities, where it was greatly admired as well.

NOTE: It doesn't show in this print, but in the lower right hand corner are two hummingbirds, (male and female) posed as Heade posed so many pairs in the "Gems of Brazil" series.

Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902)
The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak, 1863
Oil on canvas; 73 1/2 x 120 3/4 in. (186.7 x 306.7 cm)

Rogers Fund, 1907 (07.123)
This painting is the major work that resulted from the artist's first trip to the West. His intention to create panoramic views of the American frontier was apparent by December 1858, just before he embarked on the trip. In early 1859 he accompanied a government survey expedition, headed by Frederick W. Lander, to the Nebraska Territory. By summer, the party had reached the Wind River Range of the Rocky Mountains in what is now Wyoming. Bierstadt dubbed the central mountain in the picture Lander's Peak following the colonel's death in the Civil War. This was one of a number of large works painted after Bierstadt's return from these travels. It was completed in 1863, exhibited to great acclaim, and purchased in 1865 for the then-astounding sum of $25,000 by James McHenry, an American living in London. Bierstadt later bought it back and gave or sold it to his brother Edward.

Approaching Thunder Storm (1859)
Martin Johnson Heade (American, 1819–1904)
Oil on canvas; 28 x 44 in. (71.1 x 111.8 cm)

Gift of Erving Wolf Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Erving Wolf, 1975 (1975.160)
Heade became a good friend of the acclaimed landscape painter Frederic Church (1826–1900), but he worked on the periphery of the Hudson River School. He specialized not in dramatic wilderness subjects, as many of the school did, but more prosaic marshlands and coastal settings. Even when he painted storms, as here, he portrayed not the actual tempest, but its tense preamble of blackening sky and eerily illumined terrain. This painting was based on a sketch of an approaching storm that Heade witnessed on Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay about 1858. The image became the basis for a more elaborate and synthetic version of the subject painted in 1868 (Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort Worth, Texas).

Newburyport Meadows, (ca. 1876–81)
Martin Johnson Heade (American, 1819–1904)
Oil on canvas; 10 1/2 x 22 in. (26.7 x 55.9 cm)

Purchase, Mrs. Samuel P. Reed Gift, Morris K. Jesup Fund, Maria DeWitt Jesup Fund, John Osgood and Elizabeth Amis Cameron Blanchard Memorial Fund and Gifts of Robert E. Tod and William Gedney Bunce, by exchange, 1985 (1985.117)
An ideal example of Heade's signature marsh views, Newburyport Meadows was probably executed about 1872–78—the years during which its original owner, Senator Stephen Dorsey of Arkansas, resided in Washington, D.C. Dorsey took the painting with him to New Mexico, where it hung in the grand mansion that he built at Mountain Springs about 1880. Because it was long kept in a glass-covered shadow box, this painting survives in remarkably fresh condition and retains its original painted and gilded frame.


NOTE: The descriptions are from the Met's on-line catalog.


Blogger Rob Michmerhuizen said...

Greg, Enjoyed the accounts and photos of your NYC trip and the Sunday page with the paintings by Church,etc. As we've discussed, it was a special "school" of artists. Also liked the descriptions and feeling in the new poem. Stay warm. Rob Michmerhuizen

3:21 PM  

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