Artistic and even legal adversaries, the critic John Ruskin (1819–1900) and the artist James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) were at one in their love of Venice. Each in his own way redrew the map of that maritime city: Ruskin championed its gothic architecture as emblematic of a once great republic while Whistler explored "the Venice of the Venetians" through its obscure canals and byways. Whistler's extended sojourn there in 1879–80 led to a remarkable series of etchings and pastel sketches that fixed the evanescent quality of the city, capturing what the writer Henry James termed "its inexorable decay." He thereby set a standard for subsequent generations of artists who explored and evoked the city.
This exhibition focuses upon Ernest David Roth (1879–1964), one of the most significant American etchers of his day, as well as the work of his contemporaries. The prints on display demonstrate how Venice inspired artists in the wake of Whistler. They range from panoramas of the lagoon and St. Mark's Square to the gothic palaces and churches praised by Ruskin in his monumental study The Stones of Venice. At the same time, these etchers succumbed to the lure of Whistler's example by creating their own images of Venezia minore, away from the city's well-traveled paths.
Roth, his Venetian friend Fabio Mauroner, John Taylor Arms, and others not only documented Venice as they saw it, but also created "tone poems" of a vanishing civilization. Reflections and Undercurrents, organized by the Trout Gallery at Dickinson College, pays tribute to a distinguished group of artists and also a city whose existence has always seemed little short of a miracle.
Exhibition organized by THE TROUT GALLERY, Dickinson College.
The Fralin Museum of Art's programming is made possible by the generous support of The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation.
The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of the Suzanne Foley Endowment Fund, albemarle Magazine, and Ivy Publications LLC's Charlottesville Welcome Book.