A Cloudy Day (Primary Title)
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.
David Park Curry, “What’s in a Frame,” in Eli Wilner, ed., The Gilded Edge in America (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2000) p. 147.
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