As part of the programme of developing the vast patrimony of its collections, the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia
is presenting a vast exhibition of nineteenth century drawings at the Correr, most of which are on display for the very first time. It includes works by artists such as Caffi, Pividor, Guardi, Moro, Bosa, Vervloet and to name but a few.
Coordinated by Giandomenico Romanelli, the exhibition is installed in the Hall of Honour and the Museums large exhibition area on the second floor. They are all in some way connected to Venice: either the subject of the works is Venetian, they were conceived and completed in Venice, or they are about Venice, inspired by the city and its monumental and social aspects as a subject of exercise or poetical sensations.
The Venice that appears in the nineteenth-century drawings of the Correr is surprising: both modern and ancient, distracted and suffering, secret and well-known; it reveals the nerves and muscles of a body in suffering that refuses to yield, full of life and dynamic. Above all, there are outbursts of reality, of what is true, going beyond rhetoric and regrets, beyond nostalgia and laments.
A Venice that is unusual and full of fascination during the years of Ruskin and the first big, controversial restoration projects, the affirmation of tourists seeking sensations that differ from those of the Grand Tour of the Enlightenment.
It is a season of studies and research; a nineteenth century that is starving for history and industry, contradictory and fragile, unsure and headstrong. In a word, Modern.
The collection of drawings from the Venetian nineteenth century at the Correr is one of the biggest on the graphic scene of that century.
It consists in several hundred sheets of different quality and kinds that maybe because they have been obscured by the fame of the vast collections of drawings from the eighteenth century have never received the attention they deserved and were thus considered a lesser patrimony for years and therefore mainly used as a source of documentation.
However, the outstanding importance of these collections gradually became clear from various points of view.
Names: it starts with the youngest (and least skilled) of the Guardi family, Giacomo (1764-1835), who followed in his fathers footsteps and wandered around the city, making hundreds of sketches, impressions, and caricatures until he perfected the view- memory, the postcard, with subjects he repeated dozens of times but which became both original and curious with his incessant wanderings in search of a more modern expressive interpretation. Then come the thousands of drawings, both big and small, notes or completed drafts, studies, and details by a famous engraver and illustrator, Giovanni Pividor (1812-1872) who creates a Venice, with its corners and its architecture, an inexhaustible reportage: a meticulousness bordering on the obsessive, light as a feather, or structured and pictorial in fine inks as is the case in his rich album Souvenir de Venise, most of which has never been published.
We then come to the great Ippolito Caffi (1809-1866), both resurgent and heroic, in love with people: commoners resting, Austrian police, sailors waiting to be signed up, someone from the Orient, masks: Venice that is both supine and inclined to outbursts of pride, during the nineteenth century when she was both skinflint and servile, seeking redemption in jeers and gestures of rebellion. Sketchbooks with watercolours and veduta barely outlined on the small forerunners of todays moleskins, memories, the notes of a great landscape painter who had freed himself of eighteenth-century fascination.
A novelty (at least for the wider public) is the collection of over two hundred drawings by the Flemish artist François Vervloet (1795-1872). Seduced by the camera obscura, the urban landscape, objective vedutism, he tackled Rome with the landscape of the Nordic Pensionnaires (French, Danes, Germans and Scandinavians), and in Naples with what was almost the naive landscape of the South, as well as with the odd, eccentric Englishman. He arrived in Venice where he was also to die in 1872, leaving not only his drawings but also a detailed personal diary of great interest, in which he jotted down what was both important and trivial, meetings, exchanges of opinion, and experiences at the art markets. Vervloet did not limit himself to glimpses and views: he would enter sacristies, study relics and candelabras, or outline a gilded hedgehog or marble volute.
Another novelty that is not to be missed is the drawings and watercolours by Eugenio Bosa (1807-1875). No veduta or monuments but a city made of beggars and fishermen, misery and suffering, one glass too many to forget hunger, an argument outside someones home, but also the odd moments of rest and tranquillity: a trip to the Lido, having a chat next to a well-head, a dog playing, children laughing and crying, the lottery being drawn in Saint Marks Square, winners and losers in annual rowing races.
Other artists appear with smaller amounts of material but of increasing breadth. They include Luigi Querena (1820-1887) who specialises in a particular genre, short lived but extremely successful: panoramas, the 360° perspective portrayals of a city or landscape, or historical events, which were to reach its height of success in the early and middle nineteenth century, in France, Belgium and England especially.
Finally, thanks to the great generosity of a private collector, there is one more novelty: around eight unpublished drawings in pencil by Giacomo Favretto (1849-1887) reveal the fleeting details, glimpses, secret portraits, impressions jotted down unseen in the Venetian cafés, in other words, in places of socialisation and learning (reading the newspapers, the Gazettes, magazines, literature), places for prudent political activities, or rather, weaving plots, spying, seduction and betrayals. Not only the important Cafés in Saint Marks Square (Florian, Quadri, Aurora and Vittoria) but also in the Giardini and Giardinetti, Caffè Orientale and many other places that made the history of this city and not always in unimportant things, for example the Biennale.