Georgia Museum of Art to highlight state flower

Published 5:55 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Beginning June 3, the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia will present the exhibition “The Genius of Martin Johnson Heade,” organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Although the exhibition includes landscapes, seascapes and Heade’s trademark paintings of tropical birds and flowers, it does not include any of his Cherokee Rose images. The Cherokee Rose (Rosa laevigata) is the state flower of Georgia.

To remedy this situation, Deen Day Sanders, a noted art collector, gardener, philanthropist and Georgian, has agreed to lend Heade’s painting of two Cherokee Roses to the museum, along with four other works by Heade. Sanders’ paintings will make up a small supplementary exhibition, on view the same dates as “The Genius of Martin Johnson Heade.”

Nearly forgotten for the first part of the 20th century, Heade’s paintings were rediscovered around World War II and Heade is now recognized as one of the most important American painters of the 19th century. His works are in the collections of many major museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which has the largest public collection of Heade’s paintings.

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Heade devoted equal time to landscape, marine and still-life subjects, but is best known for his studies of tropical birds and flowers. He began painting still-lifes of flowers native to the southeastern United States when he moved to Florida, in 1884. Heade’s paintings of magnolias (two of which are included in the MFA Boston’s exhibition) date from the same era.

T.E. Stebbins, author of the catalogue raisonné on Heade, writes, “These paintings of Cherokee Roses … have a lushness and an aggressive confidence that far surpass [Heade’s] accomplishment in landscape during the same years and are more successful than those of northern roses in the same setting.”

Sanders will also lend Heade’s paintings “Apple Blossoms,” “The Meadow,” “Still Life with Glass of Roses” and “A Red Rose” from her collection.

Sarah Kate Gillespie, the museum’s curator of American art, said, “The loan of these important works from Mrs. Sanders beautifully augments the pieces in the MFA Boston’s exhibition, as they feature Heade’s other well-known floral subjects: the rose and the apple blossom. The rose in particular was a significant subject for Heade, as he painted both the red rose and the Cherokee Rose more than any other American artist in the 19th century, and we are thrilled to be able to share these works, as well as the meticulously rendered landscape, with our visitors.”