Hummingbirds and Passionflowers by Martin Johnson Heade
Martin Johnson Heade is often associated with the Hudson River School, but I consider him to be unique unto himself. Judging by his work, he seems to have been motivated by a desire to paint Beauty. His Blue Morpho Butterfly (pictured below) is one of my favorite paintings.
Pictured in Heade's Hummingbirds and Passionflowers is a hummingbird perched on a passionflower vine, in front of a background which is strikingly similar to that of Blue Morpho Butterfly -- presumably an imagined Amazonian landscape.
From the painting's placard:
From 1880 to 1904, Heade, an ardent devotee of natural history, contributed more than one hundred letters and articles on hummingbirds and related topics to the magazine Forest and Stream. Although he was fascinated with the subject of hummingbirds as early as 1862, the majority of his compositions date between 1875 and 1885, after his final trip to South America. The particular species of bird represented in this painting is Heliothryx aurita, the "black-eared fairy", whose habitat--like that of the passionflower, or Passiflora racemosa--is the lowlands of the Amazon basin. Heade, who was familiar with the scientific writings of Charles Darwin, here conveys the dualities and interconnectedness of bird and flower.
Martin Johnson Heade's Blue Morpho Butterfly: