"Two Magnolia Blossoms in a Glass Vase" by Martin Johnson Heade Martin Johnson Heade (1819–1904)
Two Magnolia Blossoms in a Glass Vase
c. 1890
Oil on canvas
24 x 15 inches
Museum purchase; 1995.027

Martin Johnson Heade painted close to one hundred still-lifes of cut flowers, including Two Magnolia Blossoms in a Glass Vase. Unlike many still-life paintings by artists of the nineteenth century, Heade's flowers do not necessarily project a general sense of abundance or the fragility of life. Rather, images like this painting, with its highly detailed representation of waxy green leaves against thick, silky magnolia petals, soft velvet, and smooth glass, are sensual delights.

Heade had a great love of nature and painting. While his early career consisted of painting portraits and images of everyday life, or genre scenes, he found himself more drawn to portraying landscapes, seascapes, and floral life, often saturating these highly realistic images with a romantic sense of mystery. During the last years of his career, while living in St. Augustine, Florida, Heade gained an appreciation for the local Cherokee roses and magnolias, such as the ones represented in Two Magnolia Blossoms in a Glass Vase.