Moonlight in Venice
Born in Portland, Maine in 1832, Samuel Colman moved to New York at an early age, growing up in a literary and artistic environment fueled by his father’s business as a book dealer. His uncle sold art supplies, and it was likely through his family that Colman met Asher B. Durand, under whom he studied painting. At age 22, Colman was elected as an associate member of the National Academy of Design and was firmly established as one of the foremost second-generation Hudson River School painters.
Along with romantic views of the Hudson River and its environs, Colman left behind a rich record of his far flung artistic journeys. Perhaps Moonlight in Venice serves as a sketch for the 1885 painting Venice Moonrise (Hickory Museum of Art, North Carolina). This drawing, and the resulting painting, may have come out of studies made by Colman on a Grand Tour of Europe during the late 1870s. In both works, the seductive silhouettes of Venetian architecture form a backdrop to the lights from boats on the canal and to the bright, orb-like moon crowning the composition.
Colman was a founding member of the American Watercolor Society, serving as its first president, as well as an early member of the New York Etching Club. This spirited rendition of Venice under moonlight exemplifies Colman’s mastery of different media: loose, gestural lines of black ink delineate everything from the fixed forms of architecture, the rippling waves of water, to the delicate forms of the moonlit clouds above Venice.