Menzies Art Brands



Arthur Streeton first visited Venice on his honeymoon in April 1908. The famous city delighted him and he devoted the remainder of the year to painting it.

What a wonderful place it is, we stayed in a charming place in the Zattere and I worked hard and did some good pieces.1

The unique location exercised Streetons skill and technique to a high degree. As a popular subject for artists since the 18th century, Venice also offered an opportunity for comparison with other recent interpreters including Turner ( 1775-1851), Sargent (1856-1925), Whistler (1834-1925), and Sickert (1860-1942) not to mention the numerous  earlier masters such as the virtuosos as Guardi (1712-1793) and Canaletto (1697-1768).

The present painting depicts the famous Rialto Bridge, one of the major tourist sights, spanning the Grand Canal in the very heart of the city. A quick click on Google earth will testify to Streetons  skill and accuracy in recording the scene, and also that not that much has changed in the 108 years since he first painted there.  Behind the bridge, to the left, we can see the Fondaco dei Tedesci, and to the right the row of buildings along the Riva Ferro including the Palazzo Bembo. Rising above the roofline is the campanile of the church of San Bartolomeo. Streeton painted the view facing due west from the north side of the Grand Canal, from a position on the Riva del Vin. In the foreground we see some of the citys ubiquitous gondolas.

Following Streetons initial visit, he returned to Venice later in the year (September  1908), and by the time the paintings were exhibited at The Alpine Club in London in March 1909, he had produced no less than 80 pictures in all media. Streeton also exhibited in Venice in 1909 and 1910 and some of the paintings were duly exhibited elsewhere including Melbourne at the time. The drawings, watercolours, sketches and paintings produced at the time also became reference material to which he could turn in years later as the basis for further work.

Streetons own catalogue 2 for the year 1927, for example, includes a total of 6 oils on the subject each measuring 8 x 4 inches, including number 933 Rialto and 934 Small Canal.

The present painting is very closely related to anther composition of the same size, known as Canal Scene, Venice 1926, part of the 1948  Howard Hinton bequest to the New England Regional Art Museum. The painting recorded in Streetons list as no 952, Souvenir of Venice, 1927, is listed as In the possession of Mr H. Hinton. Although it is clearly directly related to the Hinton painting, and notwithstanding the mix-up in title and date, we can presume because of its fairly specific subject, that the present work is likely to be Rialto, catalogue no. 933.

The relationship with Venice did not end with his death in 1943.  In 1958 Streeton was, jointly with Arthur Boyd, the Australian representative at the Venice Biennale.

  1. Letter to Frederick Delmer, 1st July, 1980, quoted from Eagle, M., The Oil Paintings of Arthur Streeton in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1994, p.147
  2. The Arthur Streeton Catalogue, published in 1935, was the artists inventory of all the works he had produced up to that date.

Timothy Abdallah

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