THE ALLURE OF VENICE
WHISTLER HOUSE MUSEUM OF ART
243 WORTHEN STREET
THROUGH JUNE 23
by Flavia Cigliano
Whistler House Museum of Art, in partnership with Fry Fine Art, is presenting a special exhibit of paintings by underappreciated late 19th century New England artist Walter Franklin Lansil. “Allure of Venice” presents 70 paintings depicting the lagoon, canals and architecture of Venice, one of the world’s great cultural sites.
Venice’s fabled appeal to artists and writers begins with the city’s unique history. For centuries, the Republic of Venice, ruled by an extremely wealthy and powerful merchant class, was an economic powerhouse, serving as an essential link in the trade routes between Europe and Asia. During the 15th and 16th centuries, patronage of the arts became an active competition among the rich, with individuals, families and the Republic’s government vying for the public notoriety that came with art patronage. The result was a city laden with extraordinary paintings, architecture and music.
Even after Venice’s commercial prosperity and political powers had substantially declined in the late 1700s, its cultural clout remained. It was a magnet for American and European artists and writers attracted to the city’s abundance of ornate building facades, its frescoes and paintings in public buildings, churches and palaces and the splendid reflections in its lagoon and canals.
John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam and Maurice Prendergast, already established artists, were among the prominent Americans who painted in Venice. In 1879, James McNeill Whistler was commissioned by the Fine Art Society of London to produce a set of 12 etchings of Venice, a grouping of prints that would be considered unprecedented in their originality and instrumental in understanding Whistler’s genius as a printmaker. (The Whistler House Museum is his birthplace.)