John Joseph Enneking, Venice at Night, 1874
John Joseph Enneking (1841-1916) was an American Impressionist painter. Born in Ohio, he was orphaned at a young age and began painting when he was five. He went to college in Cincinnati before serving in the Civil War. After the war he studied in New York and Boston but abandoned it due to eye problems. He attempted to be a tinsmith but returned to painting after failing in that endeavor. He traveled to Europe, studying in Munich and Paris. While in Paris he met the Impressionists and painted with Renoir, Pissarro, and Monet. He spent time with Monet at his gardens in Argenteuil, where he painted Monet's wife Camille and their son. When he returned to the United States, Enneking became instrumental in the promotion of modern French art in this country. He encouraged learning from the Impressionists and was responsible for a new surge in young American artists traveling to Paris. Enneking became one of the most sought after landscape painters in the United States, known for his stunning portrayals of sights all over the northeast. Many of his paintings have a very realistic feel to them, as though we can see the movement of a brook, feel the breeze, or smell the forest. I was hesitant to write about such an American painter, yet feature a piece he painted in Europe. However this is the painting that struck my interest and I think it is a magnificent example of Enneking's skill. The particular choice of colors in Venice at Night is especially beautiful to me, a shade of red that illuminates everything around it. The reflection in the water is beautifully handled and the dock and small figures are rendered with great care. The element I find most interesting is the way the whole scene is suffused with the glow of the setting sun. It colors the sand a rich reddish brown and tinges the clouds with pink and purple. Nevertheless, a small glimpse of bright yellow light remains at the tope of the clouds. To my eye this is a masterful rendition of a standard subject, effectively portrayed with Enneking's particular skill and eye.