John Singer Sargent
Rio di Santa Maria Formosa, Venice
John Singer Sargent, American, Rio di Santa Maria Formosa, Venice, 1905, Watercolor over graphite and pen and ink on wove paper; 35.1 x 49.2 cm (13 13/16 x 19 3/8 inches) (sheet), Gift of Mrs. Murray S. Danforth 42.223
Sargent’s many views of Venice were critical to the development of his water-color technique and were among his most experimental works. Beginning in the 1880s, he frequently vacationed in Venice, where he created watercolors for his own pleasure as a diversion from the commissioned oil portraits for which he was famous. He loved to sketch from a gondola, and the low vantage point and the prominence of the boat’s stern in Rio di Santa Maria Formosa give the viewer the sense of sitting with the artist. The dissolving washes of transparent color against the white paper brilliantly capture the play of light and shadow on the watery reflections and solid surfaces.