Georges Clairin

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Georges Clairin
Gondola in the Venetian Lagoon
Watercolor, white opaque watercolor over graphite on laminated wove paper.
10 1/2 x 15 1/4 inches (268 x 387 mm)
Gift of Roberta J.M. Olson and Alexander B.V. Johnson.
Feist Gallery, New York; Roberta J.M. Olson and Alexander B.V. Johnson.

In 1836 two minor Venetian islands, San Cristoforo and San Michele were joined to become a single island that served as a burial ground for Venice. The city's dead were brought to the island, now known as San Michele, by a distinctive, ornate gondola, a conveyance that poet Percy Bysshe Shelley had already likened to a funeral bark when exploring the city with Byron in 1818. Clairin was a well-known personality in Paris at the end of the century and had a wide-ranging oeuvre. He began his career as a painter of Moroccan scenes before embracing decorative work at the Paris Opéra. An intimate of the actress Sarah Bernhardt, Clairin portrayed her in various roles. In this haunting watercolor, a grieving woman leans against the matronly figure of death, while a pensive young woman is seated in front of them. Clairin's background in the theater lends this gondola scene the air of a dramatic performance that suggests it might be a scene from an opera.

Associated names: 

Olson, Roberta J. M., former owner.
Johnson, Alexander B. V., former owner.

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