DescriptionTHOMAS MORAN (American 1837 - 1926)
Splendor of Venice (The Grand Canal), 1904
Oil on canvas
20 x 30in.
Signed and dated lower right, TMoran. / 1904. [TM in monogram]
Acquired from the artist by a member of the Roche Family, United States;
Thence by family descent to George Roche, Jr., Louisville, Kentucky;
Newhouse Galleries, New York, NY;
Mr. and Mrs. F. Howard Walsh, Fort Worth, Texas;
Walsh Family Art Trust
English-born Thomas Moran came to the United States with his family in 1844, and became a highly-regarded Hudson River School painter during the waning decades of the mythical American West. He made his first trip west in 1860, traveling shortly thereafter back to England where he was profoundly influenced by the paintings of J. M. W. Turner. The British painter's evocation of atmosphere through expanses of scumbled white and fanciful rainbow-colored iridescence could virtually double as a signature in his work. The radical approach which Turner enacted on an enormous scale emboldened Thomas Moran to attempt similar effects in his own pictures, whether painting views of the Grand Canyon or the Grand Canal.
With his reputation firmly established, Moran followed the steps of Turner. He visited Italy in 1886 and 1890, and like Turner, was utterly seduced by Venice. He made many watercolor sketches of its lagoons, its gondolas, its skies and the major monuments that define its skyline. These he transported back home to serve as models for his studio paintings. In his carefully composed views of Venice, Moran often employed the compositional technique of "anchoring" the scene with familiar architecture and then inventing foreground elements around it, such as the brightly colored boats in the present work. He took great liberties with the arrangement of Venice's major landmarks as well, pushing them forward or backward in space. He felt comfortable shuffling around the precise location of the Doge's palace and San Marco's domes, or the campanile of San Giorgio Maggiore if it meant a better composition in the end. In this way, he was a faithful student of the Romantic Turner, who took similar liberties with the local topography, while his great advocate John Ruskin condoned and celebrated these artistic rearrangements. Moran once said of his inspiration: "Turner is a great artist, but he is not understood, both because painters and the public look upon his pictures as transcriptions of Nature. He certainly did not so regard them. All that he asked of a scene was simply how good a medium it was for making a picture; he cared nothing for the scene itself. Literally speaking his landscapes are false; but they contain his impressions of Nature and so many natural characteristics as were necessary to adequately convey that impression to others. . . . His aim is parallel with the greatest poets who deal not with literalism or naturalism, and whose excellence cannot be tested by such a standard. . . . In other words, he sacrificed the literal truth of the parts to the higher truth of the whole."
Paintings such as this work of 1904, with a romantic sensibility and a technical virtuosity reminiscent of Turner, were enormously popular with American collectors at the turn of the twentieth century.
Condition report available upon request.
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