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Martin Johnson Heade, American, 1819–1904
Oil on canvas
Made in
Saint Augustine, Florida, United States, North and Central America
Current Location
On View, Gallery 329
15 x 24 1/8 in. (38.1 x 61.3 cm)
framed: 26 5/8 x 35 5/8 in. (67.6 x 90.5 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John Alden Sears
Public Domain
Object Number
This voluptuous blossom, with its flawless petals and leaves, conveys the flower's symbolic sensuality. In 1954, a curator described Martin Johnson Heade's magnolia paintings as, "the fleshy whiteness of magnolia blossoms startlingly arrayed on sumptuous red velvet like odalisques [reclining nudes] on a couch." Heade became fascinated with this flower in the 1880s when he moved to Florida. His magnolia paintings were sought after by wealthy tourists, who displayed them in their homes upon return.
Thurber Fine Arts, Chicago, IL, USA [1]

Joseph Sears (1843-1912), Chicago, IL; Kenilworth, IL [2]

Philip Rasselas Sears (1874-1950), acquired from Joseph Sears

by 1948 - 2001
John Alden Sears and Georganne Rundall Sears, St. Louis, MO, acquired from Philip Rasselas Sears [3]

1986 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, given by John Alden Sears and Georganne Rundall Sears [4]

The main source for this provenance is the Heade catalogue raisonné by Theodore E. Stebbins [Stebbins, Theodore E., Jr. "The Life and Work of Martin Johnson Heade: A Critical Analysis and Catalogue Raisonné." New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000, cat. 586] and information provided by the donor [SLAM document files].

[1] There is a label on the reverse of the painting from Thurber Fine Arts in Chicago. It is likely that this painting was once in their possession.

[2] Joseph Sears was the founder and developer of the area of Kenilworth, IL. He was the original owner of this painting, according to information provided by the donors. The painting remained in the Sears family until it was presented to the Museum, passing from Joseph Sears to his son Philip, and then on to Philip's son John and his wife Georganne. According to Georganne Sears, the painting was acquired by her and her husband by inheritance, and has been in St. Louis since 1947.

A photograph of the Sears home which clearly shows this painting on the wall is inscribed on the back: "Joe Sears House Prairie Ave, Chicago. Mid 1800" [copy of photograph, SLAM document files]. The photograph, which shows the painting in its original ornately molded gold leaf frame, was probably taken in the late 1800s.

[3] See note [2]. In 1986, Mr. and Mrs. Sears offered the painting as a partial gift to the Museum [letter from Georganne R. Sears and John Alden Sears dated October 3, 1986, SLAM document files]. The painting remained in the Sears family home until 2001, when it was given fully to the Museum [SLAM document files].

[4] Minutes of the Acquisitions and Loans Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, November 7, 1986; Minutes of the Collections Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, September 20, 2001.
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