Unmasking Venice: American Artists and the City of Water

May 28 – September 5, 2022, Fenimore Art Museum

Unmasking Venice: American Artists and the City of Water features paintings, etchings, and 3-dimensional artworks that explore the two Venetian worlds depicted by American artists during the late 19th, early 20th, and 21st centuries. The “picturesque” demonstrates the attraction to Venice felt by American tourists, while the “realistic” depicts the grittier realism of an everyday Venetian’s life. The exhibition includes work by a diverse group of artists, including Jane Peterson and Fred Wilson, and draws some interesting Venetian connections to the Thaw Collection of American Indian Artthrough the glass industry.

Venice intrigued the American artists who were arriving in large numbers. They were captivated by the city’s unique atmosphere, singular waterways, volatile coastal climate, and blend of East and West architectural styles. They floated along its canals and wandered its cobbled streets as they strove to render the city’s delicate light and distinctive colors on their canvases and sketchbooks. Some followed in the footsteps of earlier artists like Giovanni Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto (1697–1768), who was among the first to depict vedute (view paintings) of city landscapes, creating a market for panoramic views of cities and their inhabitants. Others were enthralled by the city’s history as a declining maritime power. They focused on the signs of decay in Venice’s  architecture, its darkened interiors, and its forgotten back canals, and observed from a distance the daily life of working-class Venetians.

A catalog accompanies the exhibition, as well as a several public programs.

This is one in a series of American art exhibitions created through a multi-year, multi-institutional partnership formed by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as part of the Art Bridges Initiative. The exhibition was co-curated by Martina Tanga, Julia Madore, and Ann Cannon.

Exhibition details on Fenimore Art Museum’s Website

IMAGE: William Graham (American, 1832-1911), Snowing in Campo S.S. Giovanni e Paolo, Venice, 1879, oil on canvas, Gift of Mary W. Bartol, John W. Bartol, and Abigail W. Clark, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, RES.27.100

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