Martin Johnson Heade began painting seascapes in 1858, after nearly two decades as a portrait and genre painter. The transition coincided with his move to New York City's 10th Street Studio Building where he met and befriended Hudson River School artist Frederic Church. Impressed by Church's dramatic landscapes, Heade began experimenting in a similar style. However, he quickly abandoned many of the primary Hudson River School devices and developed what would come to be known as a distinctive Luminist style. Heade's atmospheric canvases are characterized by reflective surfaces, little human activity, seamless brushwork, and a meticulous attention to effects of light and atmosphere.
The dramatic effects in Sun Breaking through the Clouds (A Wreck on the Shore) are enhanced by the quintessential Luminist composition, in which the sky fills more than three-quarters of the canvas. Far above land and sea, sunlight illuminates the interior of a large cloud, and the moist, gray air of a receding storm hangs over the earth below. The splendor of the sky is exquisitely balanced with the tranquil intimacy of the scene: two small figures quietly stand on the shore, the hull of the shipwreck lists toward the sea, and three other vessels rest on the still, glistening water. This enchanting picture displays Heade's masterful ability to simultaneously capture the grandeur and serenity of nature.
A letter from Dr. Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., discussing the work, accompanies the lot.
This work will be included in Dr. Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr.'s forthcoming third edition of his catalogue raisonné of Heade's work.