Menzies Art Brands

ARTHUR STREETON La Salute from Riva Schiavoni 1908


‘I did enjoy the place so much and I worked hard and did some good pieces. What a wonderful place it is.’1

Streeton’s time spent in Venice whilst on his honeymoon in 1908 is possibly some of the happiest of his life and the work he produced from this period is testament to this. The artist married Nora Clench in London on 11 January 1908 and took a short honeymoon afterwards at Turnbridge Wells. After a cold English winter, the couple travelled to Venice to enjoy their honeymoon proper. Photographs show them riding in gondolas, wandering the narrow canal-side streets and dining at outdoor cafes. The artist and his new bride returned to London in June after a productive period of painting and drawing however, Streeton was not satisfied that he had produced sufficient work for an exhibition that was planned for the following year. He returned to Venice in September that same year, adding to the many oils, watercolours and pencil sketches of the city in which he was so inspired by.

The Arthur Streeton Catalogue lists over eighty paintings of Venice. The commercial success he had with his work in Australia in 1907 had buoyed the artist’s confidence and he worked prolifically both in-situ in his London studio on his depictions of the beautiful city’s architecture and waterways. Streeton worked ‘en plain air’ to capture the essence of a particular time of day, and the colour and warmth of the light that bathes the buildings and lagoons of Venice. He worked quickly; sketching, mixing and dabbing paint in an effort to portray the captivating scenes before him.
This view towards the majestic Santa Maria della Salute was one of Streeton’s favourite. He painted various similar views from the Riva Schiavoni near the Bridge of Sighs looking across the canal. Two pencil drawings, both in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia, depict this view. Santa Maria della Salute and Lagoon, Venice 1908, sketched from a slightly higher vantage point than the current work, and La Salute from Riva Schiavoni (known as Santa Maria della Salute, Venice with Gondolas) 1908, both demonstrate Streeton’s excellent draughtsmanship. One comparable oil painting, also painted from the Riva Schiavoni, is Streeton’s La Salute from Riva Schiavoni 1908, in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

When comparing these works, the best features are shared in both compositions. In La Salute from Riva Schiavoni, Venice the glistening, azure waters reflect the pink tones from the adjacent buildings, whilst the sun bathes the distant La Salute in the warm afternoon light. In the lower right corner of the composition, a gondola bobs quietly on its mooring, its driver waiting patiently for his passenger. This work possesses qualities belonging to the best works produced by Streeton during his time in Venice.

Streeton held two very successful exhibitions of work in 1909 featuring his Venetian paintings and drawings - one in London and a second in Melbourne. An article written in response to these works suggested that Streeton had ‘caught the very spirit of Venice as she is today - with all her opulence of colour, her vividness and gaiety.’2 Venice’s unique beauty remained an inspiration for Streeton into the 1920s and 30s, the artist completed numerous renderings of the city later in his career. Menzies recently sold the oil on canvas work, The Giudecca Lagoon, Venice c1938 for $613,636 including buyer’s premium.

1. Arthur Streeton to Frederick Delmer, 1 July 1908, cited Galbally, A. & Gray, A. (eds.), Letters from Smike, the Letters of Arthur Streeton 1890-1943, Australia, 1989, p.112
2. West, W.K., ‘An artist from Australia: Mr Arthur Streeton’, The Studio.
An illustrated Magazine of Fine and Applied Art, vol.47, 1909, pp.259-68

Caroline Jones, BA, MA (Art Admin.)

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