Born in Madrid in 1833, Martín Rico received his early artistic training at the the Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, where he studied under Jenaro Pérez Villaamil, the academy’s first professor of landscape painting. In 1860, the young artist was awarded a government sponsored scholarship and he moved to Paris to continue his studies. In France, Rico was influenced by the work of the Barbizon artists and by Charles François Daubigny in particular. His landscapes from the 1860s are representations of the French and Swiss countryside depicted in a fully accomplished Realist style. In 1870 Rico returned to his native Spain because of the political upheaval and social unrest caused by the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War.
Upon his return to Spain, Rico moved to Granada at the invitation of his friend and fellow artist Mariano Fortuny y Marsal (1838-1874), where he also joined Ricardo de Madrazo (1851-1917). The three artists worked closely together and it was at this time that Rico’s paintings began to exhibit an enhanced sensibility to light and color. His time in Andalucia was, according to his memoirs, the happiest of his life and also one of his most artistically productive periods.
However, it was the artist’s discovery of Venice that led to the perfection of his artistic style and it is from this period that the foundation was laid for the artist’s success in both Europe and abroad. In 1873, Rico and Fortuny traveled together to Italy, stopping in Rome, Naples, Florence and finally Venice. As was the case with many artists throughout the centuries, Venice captured Rico’s imagination and provided an inspiration that transmuted into a prolific oeuvre of city views drenched in the light that is unique to La Serenissima. From this first trip in 1873 until his death thirty-six years later, Rico spent every summer with the exception of one working in Venice. He frequently painted his Venetian scenes en plain air, often from a gondola anchored in a canal or from the window of his room located in the Dordoduro district.
Widely recognized as one of the most important artists of the second half of the 19th century in his native Spain, Rico also enjoyed wide international recognition as well, especially in France and the United States.
Rio Santa Maria Zoberigo, Venice is a wonderful example of the artist working at the height of his powers. Obviously already in love with the air and light of the Italian city, Rico has captured the essence of Venice, from the gondoliers plying their trade up and down the canal to the Venezianos pausing on the bridge over the Rio Maria. The cloudless blue sky, the reflection of sunlight on water and the play of light and shadows on the architecture result in a tour de force of cityscape painting.
We are grateful to Mme. Claude Rico Robert for confirming the authenticity of the present lot.