Walter Richard Sickert

Venice, la Salute

c.1901

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 451 x 692 mm
frame: 960 x 735 x 60 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Bequeathed by Lady Henry Cavendish-Bentinck 1940
Reference
N05093

Display caption

Sickert visited Venice several times between 1895 and 1904. He was becoming interested in close-up views and in capturing the solid masses and the rhythm of architecture. This picture confounds our expectations by showing only a portion of the great domed church of Santa Maria della Salute, giving equal space to the more severe lines of the building to the left. He described his working method in Venice as striving 'to see the thing all at once. To work open and loose, freely, with a full brush and full colour. And to understand that when, with that full colour, the drawing has been got, the picture is done.'

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Entry

Walter Richard Sickert 'Santa Maria della Salute, Venice' c.1901
Fig.1
Walter Richard Sickert
Santa Maria della Salute, Venice c.1901
Royal Academy of Arts, London
© Estate of Walter R. Sickert / DACS
Photo © Royal Academy of Arts, London; Photographer: John Hammond
On his first visits to Venice, Walter Sickert focused on painting the familiar landmarks of the city. The church of Santa Maria della Salute occurs a number of times in his pictures (fig.1), usually viewed from the vantage point of the Molo near St Mark’s.1 However, in Venice: La Salute, the vantage point is much closer and raises the possibility that Sickert might initially have sketched it from a boat. The other, more prosaic prospect is that Sickert simply cropped a fuller, more distant view of the church. This is certainly supported by his concentration on a ‘close up’ of part of Santa Maria della Salute. It enables him to give a sense not just of the detail of the architecture, but its bulk and mass, and there is also a sense of approaching or retreating from the church steps. Such cropping was a device appropriated from the impressionist painter Edgar Degas, and was used to produce more dynamic and interesting compositions.
Sickert made two versions of this oil. One of them was exhibited in Paris at Bernheim’s in 1907, but it is not possible to distinguish which. The other painting was first owned by Lord Croft, and is now entitled The Steps of Santa Maria della Salute c.1901 (private collection).2 There are a number of differences between the two works. The Tate picture has a shallower foreground than The Steps of Santa Maria della Salute, and is more silvery and grey in palette. The other version has the same figures on the steps, but the one on the left is painted in red to give a prominent accent to the composition. Both works are based on a charcoal and brown wash drawing, exhibited as Salute at the Carfax Gallery in May 1912.3

Robert Upstone
May 2009

Notes

1
See Wendy Baron, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, New Haven and London 2006, no.168.
2
Reproduced ibid., no.169.1, and Modern British & Irish Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, Sotheby’s, London, 28 September 1994 (63).
3
Paintings and Drawings by Walter Sickert, Carfax Gallery, London, May 1912 (25); Baron 2006, no.169.2; see Anna Gruetzner Robins, Walter Sickert: Drawings, Aldershot 1996, p.92.
4
Letter in a private collection.

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