American Paintings and Sculpture
Artist: Martin Johnson Heade, American, 1819–1904

Jungle Orchids and Hummingbirds


Oil on canvas

18 1/4 × 23 in. (46.4 × 58.4 cm)
Christian A. Zabriskie and Francis P. Garvan, B.A. 1897, M.A. (Hon.) 1922, Funds

From early boyhood, I have been almost a monomaniac on hummingbirds. —Martin Johnson Heade

Charles Darwin’s landmark book On the Origin of Species inspired painters to look anew at nature as dynamic and evolving. In 1863 Martin Johnson Heade, an aspiring naturalist, made the first of three trips to Brazil to paint the brilliantly colored hummingbird, creating at least forty-five canvases, including Two Hummingbirds with Their Young (2011.127.1), which documents a shimmering family of Sappho Comet hummingbirds. Although Heade’s plan to publish an illustrated book on the birds was never realized, the artist’s fascination continued unabated. Beginning about 1871 and continuing for over thirty years, he painted a series of pictures that combined hummingbirds with living orchids, such as this one. Drawing on his own earlier experience as a sometime-ornithologist, and using living orchids for the first time as a painter’s subject, Heade created a unique American genre.

Made in New York, New York, United States
Not on view
19th century

Theodore E. Stebbins Jr., The Life and Works of Martin Johnson Heade (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1975), 140–41, no. 135, fig. 77.

Martina Roudabush Norelli, American Wildlife Painting (New York: Watson-Guptill, 1975), 148-49.

Robert Rosenblum, Modern Painting and the Northern Romantic Tradition: Friedrich to Rothko (London: Thames and Hudson, 1975), 82.

Helen A. Cooper and Jules David Prown, “American Paintings and Sculpture at Yale,” Antiques (June 1980): 1287.

Ella M. Foshay, “Charles Darwin and the Development of American Flower Imagery,” Winterthur Portfolio 15, no. 4 (Winter 1980).

Theodore E. Stebbins Jr. and Galina Gorokhoff, A Checklist of American Paintings at Yale University (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1982).

Handbook of the Collections, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 29.

James Prosek and Edith Devaney, James Prosek: Art, Artifact, Artifice, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2020), 91, pl. 70.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.