Like J.W. Turner and other great 19th century artists, Sargent was fascinated by Venice. The man himself had grown up in cultured cosmopolitan circles in Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland and Germany. In Paris he had studied under Carolus-Duran and then enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts before embarking on a career as a portrait-painter. A friend of Monet’s, he would in the second half of the 1870s undertake a number of study trips, experimenting ever more extensively with peinture en plein air. He made his first visit to Venice in 1870, returning more than ten times over the next 40 years and taking this city as the subject of his art more frequently than any other: in effect, his particular love of Venice would, from the 1890s to 1913, be reflected in the 150 or so oils and watercolours. Approximately 60 of these works will be shown in the Museo Correr exhibition. The first Venetian show to be entirely dedicated to the artist, this exhibition takes the form of a gondola ride down the Grand Canal. Sargent often painted from within a gondola, rendering the unusual views afforded by this low vantage point. Palaces, churches, campi and canals are all enlivened by the play of light on water and architectural details. However, alongside views of famous monuments such as the Rialto Bridge, the Doge’s Palace and the Church of the Salute, there are also evocations of daily life in the Venice of the time: interiors of workshops, crowded streets, women at work, busy cafés and osterie,etc. And whether interiors or external scenes, each of these works reveals the dominant features of Sargent’s art: exploration of light effects, freedom and precision of line, perfect mastery of form. The exhibition layout is completed by an unusual and surprising section dedicated to such contemporary Venetian painters as Milesi, Tito, Selvatico and Nono. A leading figure in a number of Venice Biennales, Sargent undoubtedly had an influence on these men; but at times he himself may have been influenced by their work.
After “Turner and Venice”, another show which charts a great artist’s response to the city and its lagoon. Venice was, in fact, the place best loved by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), the most important of American ‘Impressionists’, who was born in Florence and lived for most of his life in Europe.
Housed within the neoclassical rooms on the first floor of the Museo Correr, the exhibition – curated by Warren Adelson, Elizabeth Oustinoff and Giandomenico Romanelli– is the fruit of collaboration between the Musei Civici Veneziani and Adelson Galleries of New York; it will include approximately sixty works (paintings and watercolours) dating from 1880-1913. There are loans not only from the Brooklyn Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Royal Academy of Arts in London and the Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, but also from numerous private collections. Thus, the public has the opportunity to see masterpieces that are rarely if ever placed on public display. The exhibition includes also a section (ten paintings) dedicated to contemporary Venetian painters.
An accompanying book published by Yale University Press (in Italian by Electa) contains essays by scholars including Warren Adelson, Elaine Kilmurray, Elizabeth Oustinoff, Richard Ormond, Rosella Mamoli Zorzi and Giandomenico Romanelli.