Félix-François Georges Ziem (French, 1821 – 1911) “Grand Canal, Venice”
Oil on Canvas 25 5/8 x 41 3/8 inches
The city of Venice was a favorite subject for French artist Félix-François Georges Ziem. In this brilliant cityscape, the artist portrays the historic city’s Grand Canal packed with sailboats and gondolas as the sun rises upon a new day. The composition celebrates both the grandeur of the city’s architecture as well as its everyday commerce, while also serving as a beautiful study of light and color. Ziem’s paintings reflect the impact of the Barbizon artists and the group’s ideals of realism by using the contrast of light and shadow to bring his compositions to life.
Ziem originally planned to become an architect until “disciplinary” problems caused him to lose his scholarship to the Academie d’architecture of Dijon in 1841. Upon his dismissal, he decided to embark on a journey to Rome on foot. It was during this time that his hobby of painting became his life’s work. He executed hundreds of sketches of the lands he came across, often selling or trading them for food. No other city struck him as did Venice, with its network of waterways and outstanding architecture–he immediately fell in love. Ziem’s infatuation with the city would last throughout his career and would become the subject of his most desirable and striking paintings. Several of the artist’s renditions of Venice appear in the permanent collections of some of the world’s most prestigious museums, including the Louvre (Paris), the Musée d’Orsay (Paris), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) and the Art Institute of Chicago.
He would return to Venice again in 1845, this time spending three years sketching the city from nearly every possible angle. Ziem completed several paintings upon his return to France and submitted them to the 1849 Paris Salon with great success. He continued to exhibit at the Salon until 1868, then again from 1888 until his death. His work made him one of the most sought after artists of his day, so much so that in 1864 he was honored to have under his tutelage then Princess (later Queen) Victoria. In 1857, Ziem was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, rising to the rank of Officer in 1878.