Los Angeles

“Venice Yesterday and Today”

Sabersky Gallery

Both the man dreaming of Venice and the man leaving Venice purchase prints, and so persistent a tradition of souvenir art is bound to have its masterpieces. In the present exhibition Marieschi’s 18th century etchings and those by Brustolini after Caneletto provide the most intriguing compositions of the omnipresent piazzas, chiesas and battellos. Marieschi uses a herringbone line; in Frari Church, people, their capes flying, scurry away from a tangle of two men spilled in combat across steps leading to the canal, a dog nips at the losing man’s limbs. A handsome antique screen with nine etchings by Brustolini varnished in golden ochre, reveals a taste for splendor; the figures are scaled to the scenery like elegant fairies in the palace of a colossus.

Artists of many nationalities depict Venice through partisan eyes. The Italian Lovisa achieves almost a rustic sturdiness in the large regular shapes of his archways and squarely defined vistas, while the 19th century Frenchman Rouargue employs delicate small patches of color and line resulting in a curious tracery that resembles New Orleans. Engelbrecht, a German of the Enlightenment, contrasts gloomy clouds with stolid architecture and includes a quaint lion placed allegorically on an archway. The contemporary German lithographer, Peiffer Watenphul brings the loosened shapes of Fauvism and a cold color sense to depict anonymous figures and gondolas. A small sepia ink drawing by Eugene Berman could easily be a study for an outdoor staging of a Shakespearean comedy, while Whistler’s etching The Rialto is a clustering of hairlike lines which somehow are also gregarious people crowding the stairs above an emptying street. In this thoroughly vivid display of prints only the modern lithographer Leo Marchutz is lacking in spirit; his doodly gyrations are a kind of artificial reductionism of someplace, but certainly not the Venice of Doge or dowager.

Rosalind G. Wholden