Martin Johnson Heed was born in August of 1819 in Lumberville, Pennsylvania. The eldest son of a large family, he received his first instruction in art from the 19th century American "primitive" painter, Edward Hicks. Within a short time his artistic expression and sophistication grew. He spent the latter part of the 1830s and early 1840s traveling around Europe, specifically England and Italy. By 1843 he returned to the United States and was living in Brooklyn where he then changed the spelling of his name from Heed to Heade.
The work of Martin Johnson Heade is held in private collections as well as many museum collections including: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), The Carnegie Museum of Art (PA), the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Yale University Art Gallery (CT), and the Museum of Art at Rhode Island School of Design.