Oil on canvas. 56 x 91.4 cm
Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
Much of Heade's popularity derives from his paintings of salt flats on the East Coast of the United States. Like other works from this series, The Marshes at Rhode Island occupies a transitional position between the virgin landscapes of the Hudson River School and the pastoral views. The present scene is no longer an untamed wilderness and suggests man's intervention. In contrast to artists such as Jules Breton and Jean-François Millet, however, human presence is a silent one. It consists of little more than a half-filled hay wagon, a rake and some abandoned pieces of clothing, all indicating that the working day is over. Heade counterbalances the arrangement of the hayricks that recede into depth with the horizontal flow of the water in the foreground. The most striking element of the work is, however, the luminosity of the sky, which Heade studied under all weather conditions.