Martin Johnson Heade (American, 1819 – 1904)
Martin Johnson Heade (American, 1819 – 1904), The St. Johns River, c. 1890s, oil on canvas, Purchased with funds from Membership Contributions, AP.1966.29.1.
Martin Johnson Heade was a committed proponent of ecological conservation, and his paintings reflected this passion. Born in Pennsylvania in the same year Spain ceded Florida to the United States on paper, Heade relocated to the state in 1883. Many of his paintings were purchased by developer Henry Flagler for his hotels in St. Augustine, but soon Heade was also serving as an artist-in-residence for Flagler’s landmark property, the Ponce de León Hotel, creating souvenirs for the tourist market.
Despite his strong connection to the city’s development, Heade anonymously wrote articles lamenting the gloomy outlook for Florida’s natural resources as a result of growth. For example, “Florida has legislators of wonderful foresight, who can always be relied on to see the danger of exterminating game and plumage birds after they have disappeared, and it’s hardly worth while [sic] to trouble ourselves about the rapidly disappearing manatee.”