OIL PAINTING: Sailing by Moonlight, c.1860
Martin Johnson Heade Sailing by moonlight signed M.J. Heade, l.l. oil on canvas 14 1/4 by 22 1/4 in. (36.2 by 56.5cm.) Painted circa 1870-75. In 1858, Martin Johnson Heade moved to New York and took a studio in the recently completed Tenth Street Studio Building. It was there that Heade met Frederic Edwin Church, heir to Thomas Cole's landscape tradition and a dramatic influence on the stylistic development of maN0 of his contemporaries working in the Tenth Street studios, including Heade. By 1860, such artists as Sanford Robinson Gifford, Worthington Whittredge, Albert Bierstadt
and John F. Kensett had studios in the building and were exploring individual approaches to depicting the American landscape. As Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr. notes, "Both Heade and Kensett were concerned with the interplay of sea and sky and the nuances of light, but their works can rarely be confused with one another. Kensett's work is more strongly grounded in topographical specificity, and he usually depicts static scenes under the clarity of midday light; by contrast, in Heade's world the motion of clouds, boats, or waves suggests that change is imminent, and one's attention is drawn across the horizon to barely visible objects in the distance" (The Life and Works of Martin Johnson Heade: A Critical Analysis and Catalogue Raisonne, New Haven, Connecticut, 2000, p. 51). Heade's seascapes continue the luminist investigations the artist began when painting the picturesque salt marshes found in the coastal areas of New England. Like the sea, these uninterrupted and vast marshes provided an ideal backdrop for recording changing weather patterns at various times of day. In Sailing by Moonlight Heade distills his composition into two registers, placing his customary flat horizon line near the center of the work, dividing the canvas equally between water and sky. Heade painted his last marine scenes in the 1870s, moving away from the subject entirely by 1877.