Property from the Collection of LISA CURTIS deBEAUMONT
Venice in the latter part of the nineteenth century was a literary and artistic mecca. The city attracted many of the leading cultural figures of the day, including Monet and Manet, who painted dashing views of the cathedrals and piazzas. Also attracted were several important American expatriates who came to study Venetian masters.
For American expatriates there were two chief gathering places. The home of Katherine De Kay Bronson, "the undisputed leader of expatriate American society in Venice" (H. Honour, The Venetian Hours of Henry James, Whistler and Sargent, Boston, 1991, p.42), was a modest palace at the mouth of the Grand Canal. Mrs. Bronson had the frequent honor of J.A.M. Whistler's company and that of artists interested in his seminal investigations of tonalism. Whistler visited often and shared his tales of the paintings he had seen in Paris.
The other favorite destination was the marvelous Palazzo Barbaro, also on the Grand Canal. Barbaro was a sixty room palace, quite grand in scale, and inviting also for its list of visitors that included Henry James, Isabella Stewart Gardner and others. Barbaro was first rented and eventually purchased in 1885 by Daniel Curtis and his wife Ariana. Their son Ralph was born in Boston in 1856 and subsequently educated at Harvard. Soon after his graduation, Venice and the Palazzo Barbaro would become home to Ralph Curtis and his well know cousin John Singer Sargent.
Sargent and Curtis formed the core of an important group of American expatriates painters. Although Curtis and Sargent were of a higher social millieu, they embraced Frank Duveneck and others who studied in Venice and they created an important forum for the exchange of artistic and philosphical ideas. It was a happy and productive time for these painters, most especially Sargent and Curtis who together created an enormous body of watercolors and oils of Ventian canals and figural scenes. In 1899 Sargent painted his masterpiece An Interior in Venice, of which he was so proud that he submitted the picture as his diploma piece for the Royal Academy. It is not surprising that the sitters for this picture were the Curtises and the locale of the picture was the marvelous Sala of the Palazzo Barbaro.
The works offered here have descended directly in the Curtis family to the present owner and they provide an important glimpse into the sophisticated cultural milieu inhabited by artists such Ralph Curtis, Frank Duveneck, and John Singer Sargent.