1874
American
oil on canvas
Unframed: 14 1/8 × 30 in. (35.88 × 76.2 cm)
Framed: 25 3/4 × 41 in. (65.41 × 104.14 cm)
77.24

Martin Johnson Heade, a largely self-taught artist from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, found his subject in the flatly expansive salt marsh landscapes of the East Coast, a relatively novel subject for contemporary painters. Produced after his 1866 move from New England to New York, A Cloudy Day likely depicts the marches of Hoboken, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from Manhattan. Alternatively, it may be a composite view of the artist’s memories of Newburyport, Massachusetts, or Newport, Rhode Island.

Over four decades, Heade painted more than one-hundred marsh scenes. His post-Civil War choice of subject – an environment in constant flux – would seem to capture contemporary America’s transitional mood. VMFA’s version reveals the currency of Heade’s landscape vision in the Reconstruction years before the country’s centennial, when the healing promise of peace and prosperity loomed large.

 

signed and dated lower right: "M.J. Heade 1874"
Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund
O’Leary, Elizabeth L., Sylvia Yount, Susan Jensen Rawles, and David Park Curry. American Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Charlottesville: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts with the University of Virginia Press, 2010. (No. 66, p. 185-178).

David Park Curry, “What’s in a Frame,” in Eli Wilner, ed., The Gilded Edge in America (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2000) p. 147.
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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