During a painting trip with Tim Clark through Italy and Austria in the summer of 2011, one evening, after a fine seafood dinner in Venice, five of our group walked to the Rialto Bridge, a spectacular 400 year old bridge and the subject of several of John Singer Sargent’s famous paintings of Venice. We hoped to sit where Sargent sat at least long enough to do a sketch. The sidewalk café at the spot we had heard was the right place was not busy, and the waiter was accommodating, allowing us to split a bottle of wine and sketch in our books. I could almost feel the spirit of Sargent at the table with us.
A few days later I felt the urge to return to Rialto Bridge to see if I could find a good painting spot in the middle of a hundred thousand tourists. It wasn’t easy. The restaurant where we had sketched was not an option. Everywhere I could find was stuffed with tourists. Then, after crossing over the bridge, I discovered the perfect place, a small alley way that led to a WC (toilet) arranged just perfectly to set up an easel out of the main traffic, and get a straight shot of the bridge, obstructed only by a few posts in the water. In addition to providing a nice view of the bridge, having a WC nearby was icing on the cake. Within minutes I was working away and found myself in the zone, where time does not exist. Something was extra special about that spot, and I wondered how many other artists had discovered it.
After doing a sketch and the better part of a painting, it was getting late and suddenly I realized that the WC was more urgent than finishing the painting. But that was okay since the WC was right behind me, right? Wrong. The WC, being a public pay toilet, had closed at 6 PM, and it was half past seven.
The solution to the problem was to solve a second problem. The slice of pizza that comprised my lunch had run out, and I was starving, so I hustled into a self serve café, selected a huge slab of lasagna and hit the head, i.e. the WC. That lasagna, when combined with the WC, was about the best and lowest priced deal I found in Venice. If you ever are in Venice, let me tell you about the best place to get lasagna. J
Now for the mystical part of the story. After arriving home and writing up the trip experience, I reexamined my photos of the bridge and began comparing them with Sargent’s paintings. I was stunned at what I discovered. It appears that Sargent was sitting at least close if not in that exact spot in the alley where I had sat. For the first time I realized that I had serendipitously discovered and used Sargent’s magic spot.
Photo taken from my magical painting spot in the alleyway compared to Sargent’s watercolor, which fortuitously was most likely made from the same location. It was Three months later when reviewing my photographs that I discovered that this was where Sargent had set up his easel.