Envisioning a deluxe portfolio of chromolithographs similar to John James Audubon’s popular Birds of America, Martin Johnson Heade made three trips to South America in the 1860s in search of exotic flora and fauna to paint. There he became captivated by hummingbirds, which figure in dozens of his paintings from this period, and even kept the birds as pets. This scene was likely inspired by a trip to Jamaica in 1870, when the artist began to add orchids to his favorite theme. The sexual connotations of these particular flowers and birds may have accounted in part for their contemporary popularity.


  • Title: Two Hummingbirds with an Orchid
  • Creator: Martin Johnson Heade
  • Date: 1875/1875
  • Provenance: High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Purchase with David, Helen and Marian Woodward Fund
  • Type: Paintings
  • Rights: Photo © 2015 High Museum of Art
  • External Link: High Museum of Art: www.high.org
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 17 9/16 x 27 1/2 inches

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