Most people unfortunately have had to forgo their travel plans in the year 2020 due to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. Luckily, art has always served as fuel for the imagination, and some of the best works have the ability to transport you to another time and place. Here are five artworks from M.S. Rau’s world-class collection of fine art to help you feed your wanderlust safely and virtually.
We will begin our virtual art tour with one of the most famous travel-related rights of passage in history — The Grand Tour. From the 17th century through the early 19th century, travel was largely a privilege of the upper classes and a symbol of wealth. The Grand Tour, with requisite stops in Paris, Florence, Venice and Rome, was considered compulsory for the young, well-educated aristocrat, and those who embarked on it were expected to return home with a greater understanding of the world and its history — accompanied with mementos of their travels. These Grand Tour souvenirs were highly popular and a way to collect one’s expeditions in miniature. Micromosaics depicting cultural landmarks such as the Vatican or the Roman Forum were especially coveted for their beauty and complexity.
Next, we travel to a bustling port on the Pearl River in China with a view of the island of Honam in the distance. This Chinese School painting, created during the Qing Dynasty, portrays the colorful merchant’s vessels, including junks, sampans, mandarin boats, tanka and flower boats, carrying their wares to their destination. Chinese School paintings such as this were often created with the wealthy Western merchant in mind. These scenes appealed both to the local pride of the Chinese elite and to European traders. The intricate detail and energy imbued into the canvas reflects the excitement that comes with traveling to such a vibrant locale.
For another beautiful destination bustling with water traffic is the famed Grand Canal of Venice. This panoramic view was created by Dutch artist, Stefan Bleekrode, in astonishing detail with black ink and watercolor on paper. The drawing includes some of Venice's most famous structures such as the Basilica di Santa Maria Della Salute at the left, the Palazzo San Marco at the center and the Riva degli Schiavoni at the right, among many more. The level of detail and the skill of the work's execution is such that it truly transports you to the Floating City.
Another elegant European city we have been longing to travel to is the beautiful City of Light — Paris. This painting by the great French artist Edouard Léon Cortès depicts one of the city’s most charming locales — the banks of the Seine and its famed booksellers known as bouquinistes. Today, these booksellers have become a fixture on the Parisian river, leading it to be described as "the only river in the world that runs between two bookshelves." Cortès masterfully captures this quaint tradition on a crisp autumn day through vibrant splashes of light and color, bringing the viewer to the Seine in spirit.
Returning stateside, we will visit the picturesque coastal California town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. The Impressionists are legendary for their ability to capture the essence of a particular time and place. Their technique of painting en plein air lended itself well to portraying the effects of changing light on a landscape, and one of its greatest practitioners was the American Impressionist, William Merritt Chase. Chase also had an extraordinary talent for teaching this method, and this work was created during a painting demonstration for over one hundred pupils. According to Ronald Pisano in his catalogue raisonné of the artist's works, "[Chase] is reputed to have thrilled students when within minutes of beginning a work he would capture the essence of the subject before him," and his expressive brushstrokes and bold use of color in this example epitomize his unmatched ability to portray the landscape before him.
Want to experience even more fine art? We invite you to take a virtual art tour of our 40,000-square-foot French Quarter fine art and antiques gallery from the comfort of your home. We hope to see you there in person very soon.