On June 3rd, the exhibition Venetian Views: American Works on Paper opens at the IMA, featuring works by American artists who visited Venice in the 18th and 19th century, and an interesting complement to the contemporary works on display at the Biennale. As Adam Thomas, the Weisenberger Fellow of American Art who worked on this exhibition, said, “ The exhibition offers IMA visitors the opportunity to reflect upon Venice as an artistic center and explore the lasting fascination that the city has had for artists, particularly American artists. It is also interesting to note that artists included in the exhibition participated in early incarnations of the Venice Biennale: Whistler in 1895 and 1897; and Sargent in 1897.”
The works in the collection feature many of Venice’s most popular highlights, including St. Mark’s Square, or Piazza San Marco. The Piazza is the principal square in Venice, with the massive Basilica dominating one side. Now thronged with tourists, it’s one of the rare vast open spaces in the city, with lots to explore on all sides. Henry James wrote, “It’s not easy to catch the real complexion of St. Mark’s…if you cannot paint these things you can at least grow fond of them.” Many artists have attempted it, and seeing their impression of this kinetic (and often frenetic) place gives you a glimpse into a specific moment. However, at the same time, though many years and people have passed by, it’s interesting to also see how little has actually changed.
One of the works that features the Piazza in Venetian Views is this work by Frank Duveneck from 1883:
Another incredible example from the IMA’s collection, is this one by Canaletto from 1735. The light in the square still looks like this:
Still a meeting place, the amount of people has (just slightly) increased today: