A beautifully draped, yellow sail is the focus of the composition. The water and the architectural elements around it all appear to be reflecting its golden light, enhanced by the artist’s clever juxtaposition of yellows, blues and greens. As in his Venetian subjects, Sargent uses a low perspective, possibly from a boat, looking upwards to the houses around him allowing the viewer to have the experience of floating along the lake. The shifting angles and tilted perspective lend these works a sense of immediacy and spontaneity.
The present work is reminiscent of Sargent’s earliest views of Venice which date from the summer of 1880, when the artist took a studio at the Palazzo Rezzonico and ventured out into the streets to paint. The resulting works largely comprise scenes of modern life, populated by working-class men and women idling in the narrow streets or labouring in dark interiors, rendered in a tonal palette. Sargent returned to Venice repeatedly over the next thirty years, eventually completing over 150 views of the city in both watercolour and oil. With the same fluency and mastery of medium showcased in his Venice views, the beauty of San Vigilio is here captured in the glimmering light and the rendering of the rippling water.
The present work was acquired in 1925 by Governor Alvan T. Fuller of Boston (1878-1958). A distinguished political figure and a noted philanthropist, he owned fourteen oils and watercolours by Sargent.
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