LAWRENCE STEIGRAD FINE ARTS

Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits

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ANTONIO MARÍA DE REYNA (Coin [Malaga] 1859 – Rome 1937) 

A Venetian Canal

signed A. Reyna and inscribed Venezia in the lower left

oil on canvas

13 ¾ x 29 ½ inches          (34.9 x 74.9 cm.)


PROVENANCE

Anthony Schreiber, The Lilacs, East Aurora, New York, until 1938 and thus by descent in the family until 2012

It is not accidental that in the 1880s and 1890s Venice virtually teemed with artists intent on portraying its singular beauty. Impressionism had come to dominate western art and Venice lent itself naturally to its demands. In 1888 Bernard Berenson wrote a letter to Isabella Stewart Gardner describing Venice, “one soon forgets to think of form here, going almost mad on color, thinking in color, talking color, almost living on color. And for one that enjoys color this certainly is paradise.”[1] In 1885 the artist known as Antonio Reyna arrived in Venice and discovered his muse.

The painter whose full name was Antonio María de la Concepción Reyna Manescau y Zayas began his studies at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts of Malaga. He was a student of Joaquin Martinez de la Vega and Bernardo Ferrandis Badenes. He painted mainly landscapes but his repertoire also included fanciful mythological and orientalist subjects that reveal the influence of Mariano Fortuny. In 1880 Reyna was awarded a scholarship to continue his studies in Rome where he met the painter Jose Villeges who influenced his work. He also met and married the opera singer Beatriz Mililetti Desantis. Five years later with the move to Venice the artist’s innate talent for the masterful interpretation of the effects of light and color in landscape became perfectly realized. The exposure to the Venetian paintings of Rafael Senet and Martín Rico y Ortega further impacted his own, but Reyna’s renderings of the city are memorable in their own right.[2] This was true to such an extent that when American painters arrived in Venice during this period it was the examples by Reyna and his contemporaries that they sought to emulate.[3] Reyna’s paintings also proved particularly popular with American as well as English collectors.

In 1887 the artist sent a large work titled Floralia to the Expocisión Nacional de Bellas Artes in Madrid and was awarded a third class medal. In 1895 King Alfonso XIII of Spain made him a Knight of the Royal and Distinguished Order of Charles III in recognition of his artistic achievement. Reyna’s works are in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; four in the Museo Carmen Thyssen and several in the Museo de Bellas Artes, both in Malaga; the Meadows Museum, Dallas; and the Museo de Roma.[4]

Our painting incorporates all the traits that make Reyna’s work enduring. Integral to the composition is the employment of the generally atypical, but for Reyna his most favored format of 13 ¾ x 29 ½ inches. The artist felt it best suited his need to present the wide expanses of water that define Venice. Color runs riotously throughout the canvas made up of the contrasting hues of blue, pink, orange, green, white, yellow and ochre. Black bottomed boats serve as accents that lead the viewer’s eye through the composition. The sun, unseen yet directly overhead, casts few shadows creating instead a spectacular patterning of shimmering reflections in the water of the fore and midground. Although populated with figures they harmonize with rather than dominate the scene. The immediacy of the imagery renders it timeless.

The painting has been owned probably since it was painted by the Schreiber Family of New York. Anthony Schreiber its first owner (c. 1864 – 1938) ran the A. Schreiber Brewing Company in Buffalo, at the time one of the most modern operations on the city. By 1917 he was living with his wife Theodora in East Aurora in a grand Victorian house with Italianate touches called “The Lilacs”, which became one of the most renowned homes in the Buffalo area. During Prohibition the brewery turned to the production of other goods including Manru coffee for which it became famous. After his death the painting remained with the family until 2012.[5]

 

 

[1] Erica E. Hirschler, “Gondola Days: American Painters in Venice” in The Lure of Italy, American Artists and the Italian Experience 1760 – 1914, exhibition catalog, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, September 16 – December 13, 1992, pp. 123, 128, fn. 55.

[2] Biographical information taken from Eduardo Dizy Caso, “Antonio Maria de Reyna Manescau” in Les Orientalistes de l’École Espagnole, Courbevoie, Paris, circa 1997, p. 208; and José Manuel Garcia Agüera, “Don Antonio Reyna Manescau” in Crónicas de Coín, G. A. Ediciones, S.L., Alameda, 2000, p. 143.

[3] Hirshler, op. cit., p. 123. For comparative examples of works by Reyna and the American artist Robert Blum see, p. 124, figs. 14 & 15.

[4] Caso, op. cit., pp. 144, 147.

[5] Biographical information taken from Mark H. Hubbell, Buffalo, The City Beautiful, Its Homes, Gardens and Environs, Buffalo Truth Publishing Company, 1931; Ron Ehmke, “The Brewed: Two Centuries of Beer in Buffalo” in Buffalo Spree, March, 2011; and Peter Jablonski, “Edifices of Buffalo Breweries” in Buffalo Examiner

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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