Martin Johnson Heade began a series of exotic still-life images while in Brazil that were to be reproduced as chromolithographs called Gems of Brazil, but the series was never completed. Orchid and Hummingbird is similar in subject to the uncompleted series, but it is not one of those oil paintings. Heade likely completed this painting later from scenes he sketched in his notebook. He also owned an orchid collection. The specimen shown is a Cattleya Labiata Lindley, native to Venezuela.
In 1883, the lure of plentiful game and fish brought Heade to Florida. He discovered St. Augustine where he settled and married. There, Heade met developer Henry Flagler and the two quickly became friends. Flagler became an important patron of Heade’s and during the construction of the Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College), Flagler provided Heade with one of six art studios. The combination of St. Augustine’s civilized quaintness, tropical vegetation, and marshes created the ideal working environment for Heade and the artist enjoyed his greatest success. The Cummer also owns The St. Johns River, by Heade.