Tuesday, April 3, 2012

This Just In...

Spending the Day with Heade

Many will know the work of Martin Johnson Heade, who was born in Lumberville, Pennsylvania, in 1819, and died in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1904.

Although he also is known for paintings of hummingbirds and orchids, Heade's renown is primarily based upon his paintings of salt marshes. These marshes, along the Eastern seaboard of the United States, are filled during successive tides by salt water. Traditionally they were harvested for their hay which was made up into ricks, and balanced on piles throughout the marsh. It was these haystacks, diminishing toward the horizon, that became a principal motif for Heade.

He painted marshes in New Jersey, Rhode Island, and along Boston's South Shore. 

But he particularly seems to have been drawn to the marshes in Rowley, Newbury, and Newburyport, on Boston's North Shore.
Tomorrow being Wednesday, it's time for a weekly plein air painting jaunt for me and a couple of painter friends. This week we are heading out just a few miles from home, to the Newbury marshes. In particular, the site is the road approaching Kent's Island, the one-time residence of author John P. Marquand. There is a winding marsh stream, and even a haystack replica, photographed this evening by my wife.

We won't have a whole string of them to lead us into the distance, but we'll bring those famous artistic licenses with us, in case they're needed. It's both great fun, and very intimidating, to paint in the spots frequented by our predecessors. We have better quality materials, on the whole, and lots of creature comforts to bring along. The score thus being rather even, the wild card is talent. Let's hope we don't make fools of ourselves.

Below are a few more Heades, from the local area, to give you the flavor. It will certainly be a challenge tomorrow!

In the meantime, I expect that our painter friends in France will be out on Wednesday as well. Let's hope they get better weather this week. As for our New Jersey colleague, I'm not sure if he will be venturing forth. Do let us know about your adventures!

 A photograph of the marsh, taken this evening.



  1. Looks like a great day for painting outdoors, Donald. I may just take one of my kids out and do the same in Rye across from the Harbor. There's a certain little footbridge across the marsh....

  2. Yesterday and the previous Wednesday provided sun filled skies for our French plein-air group and we took full advantage painting in a wonderful hamlet called 'La Gouffe'at the foot of Neuvicq le Chateau. A good place to paint, especially as a local resident just purchased two of my paintings! I deliver the second one this afternoon.

  3. I like hearing of 'sun-filled skies'-----first, as a fact, and second as a metaphor for your two sales. Bravo! Yesterday was glorious in the marsh, save for one amazing gust of wind which upset two out of three. But, after our Mary Poppins event, we all settled in. Contrary to what seems the prevailing trend toward really small plein air paintings, we were sporting two 18x24" canvases and another 20x22" panel. From a distance we must have combined to appear as would a brigantine, hull down, under full sail.

  4. Sounds like a good day out. Can we have a peek at any of the windblown results? My day got even better ...delivered the second sale and went away with another commision.

    1. Well, now...ain't that something. Here we are, your American cousins, burning ourselves to crisps and simultaneously working our fingers to the bone, while you glide from triumph to triumph. Bravo, Bruce!
      As for posting a painting from Wednesday, perhaps .....

    2. Bruce...there's a not-very-good snapshot of one of last Wednesday's two 18x24" (ca. 45x60 cm) plein air starts posted on Facebook:
      Looks like we'll be in my studio tomorrow (11th), practicing our craft----clouds likely to be incontinent over the marsh.

  5. Donald,
    I would like to add the first sun burn of the year to the outdoor painting diary...note to self to add sunscreen to plein air kit. A small flaw in an otherwise excellent painting trip...
    Hey Bruce, your landscape sounds romantic when you mention things like, "A wonderful hamlet called 'La Gouffe'at the foot of Neuvicq le Chateau"...perhaps a French countryside painting trip should be in order for us one of these days.

    1. Hey, everybody! Painting in France----Todd's treating!

  6. I've found that a glass of Bordeaux makes a nice watercolour wash.

  7. Save the Haut-Brion (or, a la Pepys, "the O'Brien") for yourself. Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgeuil gives a similar tint, at a fraction of the price.