Heade journeyed around the tropics depicting elusive hummingbirds with an ornithologist’s attention to detail. He was also drawn to exotic plants, building on his preliminary travel sketches by studying cultivated orchids at home.

Intending to produce a book called The Gems of Brazil based on his observations, Heade rendered each jewel-like hummingbird and lavish orchid at full scale. The colors of the amethyst woodstar hummingbirds and the Lealia pupurata orchid cause the eye to dart back and forth, echoing the movement the birds would make. With brilliant creatures and flora, and a lush setting, Heade’s intricately detailed paintings transcend the dark, indoor, staged spaces typical of traditional still lifes, transporting the viewer from every day surroundings to magical realms.


  • Title: Two Hummingbirds Above a White Orchid
  • Creator: Martin Johnson Heade
  • Creator Lifespan: 1819/1904
  • Creator Nationality: American
  • Creator Gender: male
  • Creator Death Place: St. Augustine, Florida
  • Creator Birth Place: Lumbersville, Pennsylvania
  • Date Created: ca. 1875-1890
  • Physical Dimensions: w25.7 x h46 cm
  • Type: paintings
  • Rights: Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas
  • External Link: Amon Carter Museum of American Art
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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