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The following is an excerpt from the Exhibition Catalog: Venice The American View 1860-1920  by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco published in 1985 with regards to the great American illustrator Joseph Pennell (1857-1926):

Joseph Pennell’s exposure to Venice, Italy began when he saw the exhibition of Whistler’s first Venice set of etchings while he was a student at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1881.

After winning an important commission to prepare etchings for William Dean Howell’s Tuscan cities to appear in Century Magazine, he had the opportunity to go to Venice in 1883. On June 13 of that year he wrote to his fiancee Elisabeth Robins the following:

“Oh what an awful sell it is………..and that beastly black hearse to get into-which rocks like a hammock( I hate hammocks) and smelly canals-and howling women and St.Mark’s all  polished up and looking like a new town house….those were my first impressions of Venice-and I carried them for several days…………….in short another attack of the blues.But one morning I woke up and it all came-lovely-lovely light and everything…………Now I have a gondola and a faithful creature who shrieks in unknown tongues whenever a gentleman in an upper window empties a pan of piepods upon my head-as fell out the other day and he rows me-lolling back in cushions through rippling quivering blue and gold kissed canals”.

This was followed by the rest of the letter which will speak to those who have been there or live there.

” To be in the piazza on a June evening is not to be described only let me say we all go here to drink coffee-we go when it rains to be dry-when hot to be cool-and we do -and we do it all the time and here is the place to learn to loaf and invite one’s soul, but you will see it all before long” quotation end-

Joseph Pennell and his wife Elisabeth stayed in Europe for three decades until WWI brought them back to America. The Pennells wrote or illustrated more then a 100 books together which often brought them back to Italy throughout their following years.

From one of our travels over the years we brought back a lovely pencil drawing bought in a small Venice antique shop which we share with you here (above).

Description: On bluish watercolor paper approximately 8x 11 inches – A View of a Venice Canal – signed lower right.

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