The Camden Town Group in Context

ISBN 978-1-84976-385-1

Walter Richard Sickert Venice, la Salute c.1901

Santa Maria della Salute recurs in a number of Walter Sickert’s pictures of Venice, although this painting’s low-angle ‘close up’ of the church steps and vaulted entry produces an unusual cropped composition. This choice of perspective allowed Sickert to express the building’s architectural detail, as well as its bulk and mass, contrasting with the severe lines of the structure on the left.
Walter Richard Sickert 1860–1942
Venice: La Salute
c.1901
Oil paint on canvas
451 x 692 mm
Inscribed by the artist ‘Sickert’ bottom right
Bequeathed by Lady Henry Cavendish-Bentinck 1940
N05093

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
The first recorded owner of the Tate picture is the opera singer Blanche Marchesi (1863–1940). Born in France, she pursued her career in London from 1896 for much of her life. It is possible that Sickert knew her, and she certainly moved in artistic circles, visiting for instance the painter Paul Albert Besnard (1849–1934) in his Paris studio.4

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.

How to cite

Robert Upstone, ‘Venice: La Salute c.1901 by Walter Richard Sickert’, catalogue entry, May 2009, in Helena Bonett, Ysanne Holt, Jennifer Mundy (eds.), The Camden Town Group in Context, Tate Research Publication, May 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/camden-town-group/walter-richard-sickert-venice-la-salute-r1139007, accessed 24 June 2019.