Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Myles Birket Foster - The Fish Stall near the Rialto, Venice
signed with monogram l.l.
watercolour with bodycolour
16 1/2 by 26 1/2 in.
Birket Foster's English pastoral watercolours were vastly popular among the contemporary art collecting public who lived and worked in the growing cities but who had fond memories of the countryside in which they had been raised as children. Similarly Forster's watercolours of scenes painted on the Continent were popular with collectors in Britain, as they evoked memories of holidays spent in the Italian lakes or on the Rhine, or as in the present case the picturesque streets of Venice. The present picture depicts one of the street stalls on one of the canals leading to the pescharia or covered fish market at the foot of the steps of the Rialto bridge where the fruits of the sea had been sold for over half a millennium.
It was the result of the popularity engendered by the sale of these watercolours that led to Foster becoming a wealthy man, one of the few watercolourists of the age to become rich from his art. Birket Foster built a splendid house for himself, called The Hill, at Witley in Surrey, to which he frequently invited other painters and where he assembled a remarkable collection of contemporary paintings and works of art. Among the watercolourists represented in Foster's collection were Fred Walker, George John Pinwell, Samuel Palmer and William Henry Hunt. Perhaps his most prized possession was a series of eight watercolours - all views on the Continent - by Turner. Turner is perhaps the most famous of all British watercolour artists to have painted in Venice but although Foster was clearly inspired by Turner, he chose a different approach to his depiction of the ancient city. Rather than concentrating solely upon the majestic churches and palazzi, Foster also chose to depict its people and the charm of its bustling and picturesque streets where street hawkers and vendors can be seen haggling with pretty young women, in much the same way as they still do.
Foster first visited Venice in the summer of 1868 in the company of his family and the painters William Quiller Orchardson and Fred Walker; 'No one can form any idea of the grandeur of the place without really seeing it. My first impressions were those of awe, for we had arrived at twilight and the gondolas came stealing past us in such a mysterious manner. After our baggage had been examined, we entered our gondolas, and away we went in a capital style, with the gondoliers standing up and making long sweeps with the oars. It is wonderful how they avoid collisions, as the gondolas are propelled through such narrow spaces. We soon reached the Hôtel de l'Europe, and after a late dinner we felt it impossible to wait until morning to look at some of the far-famed places, so we wandered about until we had seen the Bridge of Sighs and other sights. We are highly favoured.' (H. M. Cundall, Birket Foster R.W.S.,1906, p. 92)
at 6:00 AM