John Singer Sargent
Rio di Santa Maria Formosa, Venice
John Singer Sargent
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
(February 3 –July 8, 2012)
For John Singer Sargent, regular trips to Venice were valuable vacations from the often wearisome business of portrait commissions. His Italian watercolors were personal works, created for pleasure or as gifts for friends, not for the art market. He frequently painted outdoors, exploring the city’s less-visited areas and painting unusual architectural elements or striking patterns of colorful stones and canal surfaces. Here Sargent presents the prow of his gondola in the foreground, with gondolier’s pole dividing the space and emphasizing his unusual vantage point. The combination of bold colors and large areas of exposed paper in this view of a bridge over the Maria Santa Formosa canal suggests that he painted this image under the strong midday sun, his favorite hour to work in Venice.(June 5 –October 26, 2008)
Sargent’s many views of Venice are 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 often sketched from a gondola, and here, with the low vantage point and the prominence of the boat’s stern, the viewer feels as if he were 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.
Pilgrims of BeautyArt and Inspiration in 19th-Century Italy
Edited ByLeise, Jennifer, ed.
Contributions byCrawford, Alexander Mann III
Publisher & DateMuseum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, 2012
Edited ByWoolsey, Ann, ed.
Publisher & DateMuseum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 2008
TypeMonographs and CollectionsFrom Dürer to Van GoghGifts from Eliza Greene Radeke and Helen Metcalf Danforth
Edited ByLiese, Jennifer, ed.
Contributions byEmily J. Peters
Publisher & DateMuseum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, 2008
Ormond, Richard, Elaine Kilmurray. “John Singer Sargent: Venetian Figures and Landscapes 1898-1913”. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.