The Heckscher Museum of Art’s collection spans 500 years with particular emphasis on art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. American landscape painting and work by Long Island artists, past and present, are particular strengths, as is American and European modernism.
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Although Venice had been a tourist center since the 15th century, when the Renaissance masters Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto worked there, it was in the 19th century that it became an irresistible destination for artists, writers and other travelers who were enchanted by the 'city rising from the sea.' Venice's brilliant light and color, exoticism and timeless quality had inspired early 19th century visitors like the romantic poet Lord Byron and the artist Joseph Mallord William Turner, as well as the influential mid-19th century art critic John Ruskin. With the development of Impressionism -- and its exploration of the effects of light and modern life subjects -- by the late 19th century Venice offered unparalleled opportunities for artists interested in light, color, and picturesque vignettes of daily life.
Rubens Santoro painted landscapes and genre subjects inspired by his extensive travels, but he specialized in scenes of Venetian canals that were immensely popular in Italy, France and England. Santoro was brilliant colorist, capturing Venice's reflected light with dazzling technical virtuosity. His work gives visual proof of Chekhov's observation, in a letter to his sister-in-law (1891), regarding Venice's 'inebriating architecture in which everything is graceful, light, as the birdlike gondola inundated by the sun.'