Giant Magnolias on a Blue Velvet Cloth, c.1890
Oil on canvas, 15.12 x 24.21 inches [38.4 x 61.5 cm]
National Gallery of Art, Washington
The fleshy, white petals of the magnolia blossoms appear almost to glow in such paintings of Heade as Giant Magnolias on a Blue Velvet Cloth (c. 1885-1895). In contrast to the flowers, the glossy leaves softly reflect the light, while the velvet provides a soft, matte foil. Giant Magnolias on a Blue Velvet Cloth is thought to be the culmination of Heade's series of horizontal paintings of magnolia branches. Although these beautiful paintings received little attention in his lifetime, today they are appreciated for their sensuality and undertones of mystery.