Martín RICO Y ORTEGA (1833–1908), Rio San Trovaso, Venice, 1903, Oil on canvas (óleo sobre lienzo)
Museum Purchase, with funds donated by The Meadows Foundation. MM.2007.01
During the last decades of the nineteenth century, Martín Rico y Ortega was one of Spain’s most important, innovative and internationally admired landscape painters. He presented his works in the Salons and the Universal Expositions, and his paintings were acquired by such prominent European and American collectors as Collis Potter Huntington, William T. Walters and Henry Clay Frick. His style combined academic technique with Impressionistic attention to the effects of light. His interest in working outdoors directly from nature, instead of in a studio, defied many of the standards of the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, where he studied during his youth. In 1862 he received a prestigious grant to travel to Paris to learn more modern approaches to landscape painting. Thereafter until his death, Rico was primarily active outside of Spain. He painted lively urban landscapes of historic Spanish cities, languid scenes of the Seine and the Marne rivers, and dramatic panoramic views of Paris. However, he is mainly known for his depictions of Venice. The rich baroque architecture and busy pace of Venetian urban life provided him with a host of details to depict, while the clear skies and brilliant, luminous reflections of the Adriatic Sea provided the dancing light and shadow he so effectively captured in paint. Rio San Trovaso, Venice is especially important because it is one of the most ambitious compositions Rico ever created. It is a late work in the artist’s career, and is unusual because of its monumentality; Rico generally preferred painting in a small format, almost as a skilled miniaturist, characteristic of his work that was repeatedly praised by his critics. The scene documents daily life in Venice at the turn of the twentieth century. The “rio,” or canal, runs through the intimate neighborhood of Dorsoduro and connects the Grand Canal with the River Ognissanti. Spanning the river’s width in the foreground is the Ponte di San Trovaso (San Trovaso Bridge), and in the background is the Ponte delle Maravegie (Bridge of Marvels). Opting not to include the famous eighth-century church of San Trovaso in his composition, Rico instead depicts the animated daily life of the city and its inhabitants, with gondolas and fishing boats navigating the river, women promenading, a man feeding birds and a woman bathing a child. A total of thirty-one characters appear in the composition.
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