David Law brings Italy to ‘Treasures of State’ exhibition

By Daniel Fulco, Ph.D., Agnita M. Stine Schreiber Curator

To mark the special exhibition Treasures of State: Maryland’s Art Collection (on view through Oct. 22), we hope that you enjoy this print. If you visit the museum, this work is included in the exhibition.

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David Law (British, 1831–1902)
Gondolas in Venice Canal, Twilight, 1885
23.25″h x 14.375″w
Collection of Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
Gift of Dr. & Mrs. Albert R. Miller, Jr., A2904,93.0303

David Law’s dramatic, moonlit scene of a gondola passing beneath the massive arch of the Bridge of Sighs is evocative and enigmatic, showing stunning contrasts of light and dark, which reflect off the clouds and water. This bridge, one of Venice’s landmarks, was a passage for prisoners between the Doge’s Palace and the New Prison, and it is said it was the vantage point from which prisoners glimpsed the last sight of freedom before their incarceration. This work is one of several views of Venice that Law made during his career (as both prints and watercolors), including another etching, After the Fiesta (Venice) (1893, see below), in which moonlight imbues the moody, poetic scene, casting a glow on a lone gondolier and the water. In Gondolas in Venice Canal, Twilight, we can see the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore in the distance while in After the Fiesta (Venice) the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute is visible in the background.

Born in Scotland, Law was apprenticed to engraver George Aikman (1830–1905) before attending Edinburgh’s Trustees Academy. In 1871, he departed an ordinance survey firm in Southampton, entered London’s Royal Academy, and began pursuing an art career. Law exhibited at distinguished London venues, including the Royal Academy and Suffolk Gallery. He often etched his own paintings and those after artists such as Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1881) and Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796–1875). Law distinguished himself in his career and was a member of the Scottish Society of Watercolor Painters and the Society of Painters-Etchers.

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David Law
After the Fiesta (Venice), 1893
23.25″h x 14.375″w
Published in The Magazine of Art, 1893