Venice c.1908 La Salute from Riva Schiavoni signed 'A. STREETON' lower left and initialled 'AS' lower right oil on canvas 31.5 x 61.0cm (12 3/8 x 24in).
PROVENANCE Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne Fine Australian Paintings, Sotheby's, Melbourne, 27 November 1989, lot 284 Private collection Australian Pictures, Christie's, Melbourne, 28 April 1992, lot 189 Private collection 19th and 20th Century Australian Paintings, Sculpture and Works on Paper, Deutscher-Menzies, Melbourne, 20 April 1998, lot 69, titled 'La Salute from Riva Schiavoni' Private collection, Sydney
EXHIBITED Selected Australian Works of Art, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne, 25 October - 12 November 1982, no. 37 (illus.) A Selection of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Australian Art, Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne, 8-24 October 1992, cat.19 (illus.)
LITERATURE Ann Galbally, Arthur Streeton, Lansdowne Press Melbourne, 1979, pp. 71-74 Mary Eagle, The Oil Paintings of Arthur Streeton in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 1994, pp. 147-49
Arthur Streeton's paintings of Venice are among his finest and most beautiful. They are the outcome of the happiest occasion - his honeymoon there in the spring of 1908. Happiness spills over into lyrical canvases, full of joyous sunshine and sparkling light. There is added zest in the brushwork and the colours invariably sumptuous. The combination of personal joy and the most magical of cities is irresistible, Streeton capturing the glory of her visual beauty in painting after painting. La Serenissima seems to float on water, resplendent, dream like, the brilliant light transforming everything it touches. Combining the romanticism of the fairytale city and its breathtaking atmosphere with imaginative treatment, Streeton painted such master works as Venice: Bride of the Sea 1908 (Carrick Hill Collection, Adelaide), and Blue Lagoon fringed round with Palaces 1908, shown in the National Gallery of Victoria's 1995 major, touring exhibition Arthur Streeton 1867-1943. Years earlier, Louis McCubbin, then director of the Art Gallery of South Australia, wrote of Streeton and Venice in the catalogue to the 1944 Streeton Memorial Exhibition, '...the fading glories of the City of the Adriatic were never more exquisitely rendered. He painted, as if by magic, St. Mark's, the Doge's Palace, the canals and gondolas, bathed in the soft golden sunlight of Northern Italy.' 1
When Streeton exhibited his Venetian paintings at the Alpine Club, Saville Row, London in April of 1909, they were well received by collector and critic alike. The art critic for the London Observer remarked that , '...Mr Streeton has caught the opalescence and glitter of the Venetian canals and marble palaces in moments of bright sunshine as few artists have done before him, and that he succeeds in delighting the eye and filling the heart with pleasure.' 2 The Daily Graphic added that Streeton 'has seen Venice in the happiest of circumstances, when her mirror-like waters and the marble-clad facades of her palaces are sparkling in sunlight, but before the season when the heat of the sun has become too oppressive...'. 3
Venice c.1908, seen from the Riva Schiavoni near the Bridge of Sighs with Santa Maria della Salute shimmering in white majesty at the entrance to the Grand Canal, is a classic Venetian view. Streeton enjoyed it so much that he painted several versions of it. Of the two similar works titled 'La Salute from Riva Schiavoni' of circa 1908, one is in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, its prestigious provenance including the artist's son Oliver, and Lionel Lindsay. The other was part of the important Len Voss Smith Collection, sold by Sotheby's Australia in 1997. These two paintings are, in turn, based on two drawings in the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. In our painting, emphasis is on the ubiquitous gondolas, sinuous, sensuous and uniquely Venetian, their dark foreground bulk set against the warmer colour weight of the barges' orange-red sails. They provide the perfect contrast to show off the atmospheric lightness, of skies pulsating in opalescent colours, and sparkling lights on the waters of the Venetian lagoon. Brushstrokes are varied to suit subject and picture surface. While Andrea Palladio's masterpiece, La Salute, is now more distant, its continues to weave its magical appeal. In this most theatrical of cities, the whole scene has more than a touch of the theatrical about, engendered through composition and the dramatic use of lights and darks. In the nineteen twenties and early thirties, Streeton returned to painting Venetian subjects, inspired by his earlier works. They were handled in an even broader, vigorous manner, colour more dramatic. Yet, like his first Venetian paintings, they are remarkable for that freshness usually associated with plein air painting.
1. Louis McCubbin, 'An Appreciation', Arthur Streeton Memorial Exhibition, National Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 9 November-10 December 1944, no pagination
2. Observer, London, 4 April 1909, quoted in Ann Galbally, op. cit., p.71
3. Daily Graphic, London, 6 April 1909, quoted in Geoffrey Smith, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1995, p.148