June 18, 2007
DALLAS (SMU) – The Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University announced June 15 that it has acquired Rio San Trovaso, Venice, a significant work by the great Spanish plein-air painter Martín Rico (1833-1908). The painting, an oil on canvas that measures 25-3/4 x 39-1/2 inches, is signed by the artist and was painted around 1900. It was purchased at auction from Sotheby’s in New York on April 18, with funds donated by The Meadows Foundation, and went on permanent display Saturday, June 16, at the Meadows Museum.
Rio San Trovaso, Venice (c. 1900)
by Martín Rico (1833-1908)
Click image for a high-resolution version
During the last decades of the 19th century, Rico 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 one of the most monumental and important canvases in Rico’s body of work. The scene documents daily life in Venice at the turn of the 20th century. The “rio,” or river, runs through the intimate neighborhood of Dorsoduro and connects the Gran 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 (The Marvels Bridge). 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, with gondolas and fishing boats navigating the river, women promenading, a man feeding birds and a woman bathing a child. A total of 31 characters appear in the composition.
The Rio San Trovaso was among Rico’s favorite subjects. In fact, there are at least two other known versions of this scene. One canvas, also entitled San Trovaso, Venice (c. 1890s), was purchased by the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh in 1897. This smaller version features a less ambitious composition of the left bank of the river and was highly praised by American writer Willa Cather (1873-1947), who was a great admirer of Rico’s work. Upon viewing the Carnegie picture, she wrote: “Among these graver performances, one comes upon a bit of Venice done by gay Master Rico, San Trovaso, on a sunny morning. A very blue sky, a silvery canal, white and red houses, bridges and gay gondolas, and in the foreground the dear Lombard poplar, the gayest and saddest of trees, rustling green and silver in the sunlight.” (“A Philistine.” 21 April, 1900).
In addition, two drawings related to the Meadows’ painting appeared in the prestigious French artistic magazine La Revue de L’Art in April 10, 1908, just three days before the artist’s death. The first drawing, entitled “Venise, Rio San Trovaso,” includes most of the buildings on the left bank of the river in addition to the character that is feeding the birds, also featured in the painting. In the second illustration, entitled “Venise, Palais sur le Rio San Trovaso,” Rico renders in great detail the elaborate façade of the magnificent palace appearing on the right side of the composition in the painting.
“We are thrilled to have acquired this important work, which has allowed us to fill a major gap in our collection, both in our 19th-century holdings and in the landscape genre,” said Dr. Mark Roglán, director of the Meadows Museum. “This painting 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 large size; Rico generally preferred painting in a small format, almost as a skilled miniaturist, a characteristic of his work that was repeatedly praised by his critics. Our museum founder Algur H. Meadows acquired paintings by two of Rico’s closest colleagues and friends, Mariano Fortuny and Raimundo de Madrazo. With this magnificent example of Rico’s work, paintings by these three important Spanish cosmopolitan artists can be on display together at the Meadows Museum. We are most grateful to The Meadows Foundation for last year’s historic gift, which has allowed the Meadows Museum to strengthen its collection through acquisitions.”
A lecture series devoted to Rico and painting in Venice during the Impressionist period is being developed for the fall along with special educational programming.
About the Meadows Museum
The Meadows Museum, a division of SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, houses one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Spanish art outside of Spain, with works dating from the 10th to the 20th century. It includes masterpieces by some of the world’s greatest painters: El Greco, Velázquez, Ribera, Murillo, Goya, Miró and Picasso.
The museum is located at 5900 Bishop Blvd. on the campus of SMU, three blocks west of the DART light rail Mockingbird Station.
Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8 per person, free on Thursday evenings after 5 p.m., and free for children under 12, museum members, and SMU faculty, staff and students. Free parking is available in the museum garage.
For information, call 214.768.2516 or visit the museum’s web site at www.meadowsmuseumdallas.org.
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