One of the Amon Carter's masterpieces recently got some prime time exposure on a couple of high-profile cable television shows. Martin Johnson Heade's painting Thunder Storm on Narragansett Bay (1868) made brief appearances on both Showtime's Billions and HBO's Divorce. Viewers who don't know that the painting is part of the Amon Carter's collection may have thought they were looking at an original. Instead, a reproduction stands in for the real painting in both shows.
Ominous, dark, and foreboding, the painting's storm metaphorically fits in with the central story lines of both productions. Billions involves the bitter battle between U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Chuck Rhoades and hedge fund powerhouse Bobby "Axe" Axelrod. Divorce examines the messy unraveling of the marriage of Robert and Frances Dufresne. The reproduction of Thunder Storm appears in season 2, episode 2 ("Dead Cat Bounce") of Billions, and season 1, episode 6 ("Christmas") of Divorce.
^ Billions, Season 2, Episode 2: Thunder Storm appears in the antechamber as Chuck Rhoades enters the U.S. Attorney General's office.
^ Divorce, Season 1, Episode 6: Thunder Storm appears in the dining room of Robert Dufresne's parents' house.
I ran an analysis of the full support crew for both shows on IMDB (419 total for for Billions and 222 total for Divorce). I suspected I would find common personnel working in art direction or set dressing, which might explain why the reproduction appears in both shows. Though there are twenty-two crew members in common, those folk work in roles such as drone operators, gaffers, electricians, location scouting, makeup, and stunts.
^ Martin Johnson Heade (1819–1904) Thunder Storm on Narragansett Bay
Martin Johnson Heade (1819–1904) painted Thunder Storm in 1868. It sold at the National Academy of Design's annual exhibition the same year, but it disappeared for seventy-five years until it was sold in 1943 at an antiques store in Larchmont, New York. The Amon Carter acquired it years later in 1977, and it has intrigued viewers ever since. The painting is currently on tour as part of the exhibition Wild Spaces, Open Seasons: Hunting and Fishing in American Art. The exhibition arrives at the Amon Carter on October 7, 2017.
Samuel Duncan, Head of Library and Archives