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Piazza San Marco No.25 (White Piazza), 1957 (October)

Jim Ede acquired two views of the Venetian Piazza San Marco, the subject that helped to establish Congdon’s reputation. In this painting, the larger of the two, the church is barely visible. The touches of gold suggest the mosaics of the facade and the church’s domes, that seem to hover in the mist. The autumnal atmosphere is conveyed through the use of grey-green striations sliding down from the sky, which appears full of rain.

The work would not have been made in the Piazza itself, as it was not Congdon’s practice to paint in front of the subject. Instead, he favoured working from memory back in his studio. The technique is typical of Congdon’s style at this time, with paint thickly applied and deeply worked into with knives and needles.

Painting [WC 5]

Displayed

Oil on hardboard

1190 x 1395 mm

About the artist

Congdon was born at Rhode Island, USA, and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He began to paint whilst studying English and Spanish literature at Yale University. He travelled extensively in Europe in the 1930s, before returning to the US in 1937 and sculpting for a period. Following war service as an ambulance driver in Africa and Italy, Congdon returned to New York, where he began to paint semi-abstract landscapes and urban scenes. In 1950 he returned to Italy, accompanied by Jim Ede, and painted intensively in Venice and Rome. These works were instrumental in establishing his reputation. In the late 1950s he settled in Italy and converted to Catholicism. He lived in Assisi in the 1960s and 1970s, painting series of pictures of Venice and Subiaco. From 1979 he lived in a monastry in Gudo Gambaredo, near Milan. Illness and old age hampered his output in his last years, although he was enthusiastically involved with his "Foundation for Improving Understanding of the Arts". Congdon typically constructed his paintings from thick layers of paint into which the outline of the subject is scored. A compulsive traveller, his range of subject matter is very diverse, and there is a persistent spiritual element underpinning his art.