"Water-Rambles" on the Lagoon: William Stanley Haseltine in Venice

by Andrea Henderson Fahnestock




....1 The exhibition appeared at the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco from June 20 to September 20, 1992. It will be on view at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, from January 20 to April I8, 1993 and is accompanied by a catalogue (Marc Simpson, Andrea Henderson, and Sally Mills, Expressions of Place: The Art of William Stanley Haseltine [San Francisco: The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, distributed by Hudson Hills Press, 1992]).

....2 Like all aspects of Italian experience, Americans received their first impressions of Venice through the filter of the English imagination. English Italomania predated the Americans', and its primary agents across the Atlantic were Byron, Turner, and Ruskin.

....3 Before the arrival of this group, the rare American artist who traveled to Venice went primarily to study or copy the paintings of the great Venetian masters, not to paint the city itself.

....4 On the work of other American artists in Venice, see Margaretta M. Lovell's Venice: The American View, 1860-1920, exh. cat. (San Francisco: The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1984) and A Visitable Past: Views of Venice by American Artists, 1860-1915, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989).

....Venice served as muse to European painters as well, of course; the most prolific and reknowned were the Frenchman Felix Ziem (1821-1911) and Italians Ippolito Caffi (1809-1866) and Guglielmo Ciardi (1842-1917), names little known today, along with British watercolorist Samuel Prout and Turner.

....5 "Fine Arts," The Nation 1, no. 2 (13 July 1865): 57.

....6 Elizabeth Robins Pennell, Nights in Rome and Venice in the Aesthetic Eighties (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1916), 112.

....7 Arthur Symons, "Venice in Easter," Harpers New Monthly Magazine 90, no. 539 (April 1895): 749.

....8 Although Haseltine's daughter states in her biography that "most summers and autumns, he would spend a few weeks in Venice," only seven Venetian trips can be documented (Helen Haseltine Plowden, William Stanley Haseltine: Sea and Landscape Painter [London: Frederick Muller, 1947], 150).

....Our imperfect knowledge of Haseltine's movements in Europe stems from the absence of diaries and the sparsity of letters and account records left by the artist. The years for which there is evidence of his travel to Venice are 1871, 1872, 1874, 1878, 1881, 1887, and 1894. It is also possible, based on a reference to Venetian works in Haseltine's Tenth Street studio in 1859, that he stopped there on his student expedition to Italy of 1856/58 ("Sketchings. Domestic Art Gossip," The Crayon 6, no. 12 [December 1859]: 379). However, there is no other proof of this trip, and he did not exhibit a Venetian work until 1874.

....The frequency of Haseltine's trips to Venice makes his uninscribed Venetian works difficult to date because of the unchanging subject matter and relative stylistic consistency.

....9 See Lovell, Venice: The American View, 13.

....10 E[liza] Lynn Linton, "Pictures from Venice," Belgravia (London) 37, no. 146 (December 1878): 169.

....11 Horatio F. Brown, Life on the Lagoons (London: Rivington, Percival and Co., 1888), 157.

....12 Elizabeth Robins Pennell, "Venetian Boats," Harper's New Monthly Magazine 80, no. 478 (March 1890): 54l. 164

....13 Letter from Gifford to his father, 17 July 1869, Venice, Gifford Papers, roll D21, European Letters, vol. 3, page 130, Archives of American Art.

....14 In a sense, Haseltine drew from the styles of earlier painters of Venice by mingling the linear precision of native artists like Carpaccio and Gentile Bellini and later the vedutisti with Turner's more spontaneous, liberated handling of fugitive conditions of weather and reflection.

....15 In Haseltine's paintings of Venice the figures are reduced to a few flecks of paint, unlike Sargent's Venetian bead stringers and glassworkers, Blum's lacemakers, Duveneck's water-carriers, or Prendergast's bustling crowds. For Haseltine, the figures are little more than attributes of the bragozzi, of interest only because of their necessity for the propulsion of the boats.

....16 Henry James, "Venice," The Century Magazine 25, no. 1 (Nov. 1882): 4-5.

....17 After his first trip to Venice in 1871, Haseltine received orders for works of Venice from Junius Morgan of London; Theo Lyman of Boston; Mr. Wurts, the secretary of the American legation in Rome; Mr. Roosevelt of New York; and the Duke of Nassau (Anne Brewster, "American Artists in Rome," Boston Daily Advertiser, 1 June 1872 [dateline 7 May 1872]).

....Other Venetian commissions recorded among Haseltine's papers were from the Grand Duke of Luxembourg (autobiographical statement written in 1900 for James H. Lamb, but edited out of Haseltine's entry as it appears in Lamb's Biographical Dictionary of the United States [Boston: James H. Lamb Co., 1900], 3, 578) and from Haseltine's friend Sir Henry Layard, the English archaeologist and diplomat who owned the Palazzo Cappello on the Grand Canal (Plowden, 151, and Laurence Hutton, Literary Landmarks of Venice [New York: Harper & Brothers, 1899], 39).

....18 "Correspondence. Letter from Rome," Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, 21 June 1871 (dateline 3 June 1871) and "Rome," Boston Daily Advertiser, 27 June 1871 (dateline 6 June 1871).

....19 "Our Letter from Rome," Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, 9 December 1871 (dateline 17 November 1871).

....20 On his second trip in 1872 Haseltine stayed at Venturini's, "a small hotel overlooking the Bridge of Sighs," along with his colleague D. Maitland Armstrong. Together they "spent a good deal of time in the antiquity shops, very keen about finding good things cheap" (D. Maitland Armstrong, Day before Yesterday: Reminiscences of a Varied Life [New York: C.Scribner's Sons, 1920],249).

....21 Haseltine's Venetian work was included in the following exhibitions: 1874, January, April, and May at the Century Club, New York; May at Williams & Everett, Boston; May at the Lotus Club; September at the Cincinnati Industrial Exposition; September at the Chicago Inter-State Industrial Exposition. 1875, February at his brother Charles' Haseltine Galleries, Philadelphia; September at the Cincinnati Industrial Exposition. 1879, November at Haseltine Galleries, Philadelphia. 1883, January at the Roman International Exposition. 1884, at the Twelfth Cincinnati Industrial Exposition. 1885, April at the National Academy of Design. 1886, April at the National Academy of Design and in the Haseltine Collection exhibition at Moore's Art Gallery, New York. 1896, November at the National Academy of Design (see "Chronology," Simpson, Henderson, and Mills, Expressions of Place: The Art of William Stanley Haseltine, 153-213).

....22 "Mr. Haseltine's Studio," Evening Post (New York), 3 April 1874.

....23 "Art at the Lotos," New-York Daily Tribune, 8 May 1874.

....24 "Haseltine's Pictures," Boston Evening Transcript, 19 May 1874.

....25 See note #8.

....26 Lovell, Venice: The American View, 110.

....27 Entered in Haseltine's records for 1871, for example, are six days of gondola rentals and two other unspecified boat trips to the Lido (Haseltine/Plowden Family Papers, private collection, England).

....28 Anne Brewster, "Holiday Week at Rome," The World (New York), 15 January 1877 (dateline 27 December 1876).

....29 These watercolors served as a wellspring for compositions for years to come. For example, a watercolor dated 17 June 1881, Low Tide, Venice (private collection, France), served as a detail-by-detail study for the painting La Laguna, Venice, inscribed 1893 (Wesleyan College, Macon, Georgia). In other cases, one specific boat will surface repeatedly in watercolors and paintings of different years. Haseltine's reconfiguring of certain stock elements produced a Venetian oeuvre based on theme-and-variation.

....30 See, for example, pages in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, sketchbook numbers 1978.367 for gondola studies and 334 (62.89) for a tiny gem of a compositional sketch with a brilliant red gouache sail. The majority of Haseltine's sketchbooks cannot be precisely dated because of his practice of reusing them over the years. Indeed, a number of the sketchbooks contain pages of studies separated not only by decades but also by continents.

....31 Here, as in many of Haseltine's Venetian paintings, the foreground boats set against the backdrop of the cityscape allows the exploration of a range of contrasts: objects large and small, of vertical and horizontal emphases, near and far, colors saturated and pale, crisp and vague rendering, time present and past.

....32 Correspondence from Venice, Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, ms. date 26 October 1875, Anne Hampton Brewster Papers, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

....33 Brown, 156-157.

....34 This section of the bank of the canal, now the Riva dei Sette Martiri, was still occupied by the boatyards and drydocks (squeri da nave) depicted here well into the twentieth century (Alvise Zorzi, Venezia Scomparsa [Milan: Electa Editrice, 1971], 1: 265-267, and Nuova Pianta della Cittá e Porto Franco di Venezia, 1844 map, New York Public Library).

....35 With his 1797 invasion, Napoleon ended Venice's eleven-hundred-year independence. For sixty-nine years the city bridled under foreign rule, French and Austrian, until 1866, five years before Haseltine's first visit, when she became part of the newly formed Kingdom of Italy.

....36 Brown, 147. The site was among the most popular with painters, foreign and Italian. Giovanni Costa, Italy's preeminent nineteenth-century landscape painter, approached the scene from a prospect nearly identical to Haseltine's, for example, in Venezia dai Giardini Pubblici (Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, repr. Ottocento/Novecento. Italiaanse Kunst 1870-1910, exh. cat. [Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 1988],72).

....37 Linton, 169.

....38 Plowden, 89.

....39 The seventeenth-century votive church was built in gratitude to "Mary of Health" for ending the last plague to devastate the city in 1630-31.

....40 Pennell, "Venetian Boats," 554.

....41 Riccardo Pergolis and Ugo Pizzarello, Le Barche di Venezia (Venice: L'Altra Riva, 1981), 104-113.

....42 The standard view of the façade is commemorated in Canaletto's The Bacino di San Marco from the Giudecca, Venice (Wallace Collection), Turner's The Dogana, San Giorgio, Citella, from the Steps of the Europa (Tate Gallery), and Samuel Colman's San Giorgio Maggiore (private collection), among others.

....43 During this 1887 trip to Venice, Haseltine wrote to his daughter Helen:

...."The weather is again very bad here, rainy & cold & I have had to give up making sketches & now spend my days in going to the galleries & looking at pictures & that after all is a very pleasant way of passing ones time. I went this morning to the Academia [sic ] where are to be seen some of the finest pictures in the world & this afternoon I went with Count Middleton & his three daughters to see the modern exhibition which is also very fine in its way" (WSH to Helen Haseltine [Plowden], 25 October 1887, Venice, Haseltine (Plowden Family Papers).

....The "modern exhibition" he visited was the Prima Esposizione Nazionale Artistica del 1887, the precursor to the Esposizione Internazionale d' Arte delIa Cittá di Venezia, now known as the Venice Biennale, which began in 1895 (Alberto Cosulich, Viaggi e Turismo a Venezia dal 1500 al 1900 [Venice: Edizione "I Sette," 1990], 165-174, and Esposizione Nazionale Artistica. Catalogo Ufficiale, Venezia, 1887).

....44 Pennell, "Venetian Boats," 552 and 554.

....45 Plowden, 150.

....46 Plowden, 150.

....47 This spare, elegant work is the only one of Haseltine's Venetian works to include a larger vessel, the tall-masted sailing ship at the horizon near the right edge of the paper.

....48 On this watercolor, see Henderson, "Haseltine in Rome," Expressions of Place, 40.

....49 The first record of Haseltine's purchase of watercolor supplies was in Venice in 1871 (Haseltine/Plowden Family Papers), and his first known watercolor, dated 1874, is of a Venetian site (private collection, England).

....50 "The Late Mr. William Stanley Haseltine," Evening Post (New York), 28 April 1900; originally published in Il Giorno (Rome), 11 February 1900.

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