Martin Johnson Heade and Charles Darwin
But it is a measure of the achievement of this remarkable exhibition, at the Yale Center for British Art here, that this work is seen differently, as we look at it through Darwinian eyes — as is nearly everything in the show. The cliffs and comet and shells allude to the lumbering processes of the ancient earth against which daily experience — the ebb of tides, the attentions of a distracted child in the painting’s foreground, the recollections of the artist himself — plays itself out. The image has an eerie beauty, but it also reflects a gnawing anxiety about the mismatch between the ageless and the temporal, the divine and the mortal, an anxiety not unlike the kind Darwin’s theories can still inspire.
An article in today's New York Times about an exhibit in New Haven featuring (among others) the work of Martin Johnson Heade, including Cattleya Orchid and Three Hummingbirds (1871)
Portrait of Charles Robert Darwin by Laura Russell (1869).