During the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, Florida drew the attention of a number of literary figures, naturalists and landscape artists who were vocal in the national conservation movement.1 Often traveling as observers for developers and entrepreneurs, they documented landscapes in words and paintings that now constitute a national treasure. In 1867, Charles Beecher, brother of novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe arrived at the mouth of the St. Johns River. "The river stretched away so boundlessly," he wrote that "it seemed rather [like] a great sea or lake."2 Impressed by the expansive beauty, Beecher described his gateway as a "tropical scene." Biologists classify North Florida as temperate, but Beecher was enjoying the landscape in visual language celebrated by Martin Johnson Heade and other Luminists, painters concerned with the effects of atmospheric light on landscape.3 Commenting on their work, art critic Robert Hughes claimed: "Only in America, where nature was culture, could landscape painting become so direct a form of social discourse."4 Heade's "America" was larger than the United States of Hughes remark. The sweep of his travels also included South America, Central America, and the West Indies.5 Today, few admirers of Heade's paintings are aware of another dimension of his social discourse, his ardent attention to wildlife politics and policies in Florida.6
Porter, Charlotte M.
"Wetlands and Wildlife: Martin Johnson Heade in Florida,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 88:
3, Article 4.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol88/iss3/4