National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Street in Venice John Singer Sargent (artist)
American, 1856 - 1925
Street in Venice, 1882
oil on wood
overall: 45.1 x 53.9 cm (17 3/4 x 21 1/4 in.) framed: 65.4 x 76.2 x 6.4 cm (25 3/4 x 30 x 2 1/2 in.)
Gift of the Avalon Foundation
1962.4.1
Not on View
From the Tour: Whistler, Sargent, and Tanner — Americans Abroad in the Late 1800s
Object 2 of 7

Although best known for his fashionable formal portraits, John Singer Sargent was equally adept at landscapes and scenes of daily life. His early fame and astonishing facility with a brush prompted the American expatriate novelist Henry James, his close friend, to comment on “the slightly 'uncanny' spectacle of a talent which on the very threshold of its career has nothing more to learn.”

Another of Sargent’s friends was the French impressionist Claude Monet, with whom he shared a love of painting en plein air, or out-of-doors. Street in Venice, created during the second of Sargent's numerous visits to that city, was done on the spot. Mediterranean sunshine penetrates the narrow confines of the Calle Larga dei Proverbi, a back alley near the Grand Canal.

The emptiness of the silent street implies that Sargent depicted siesta, the time when many Italians rest for three hours at midday. One of two men conversing in the shadows is distracted by a girl strolling alone. Her skirt’s rustling hem and shawl’s flowing fringe are rendered with indistinct strokes that suggest her rapid pace will soon carry her beyond his lingering gaze. This combination of technical skill and emotional intensity goes far toward explaining why Sargent received more honors and medals than any previous artist, European or American.

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