Martin Rico y Ortega was born on November 12, 1833 in Madrid during a time of prolonged civil strife in Spain. He received his earliest art education from his brother Bernardino Rico, who worked as an engraver. He then attended the Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid where he studied landscape painting with Jenaro Perez Villaamil. During his student years, Rico y Ortego was influenced by English artists such as John Constable through his teacher and absorbed the habit of painting on site and striving to capture the atmospheric conditions of clouds, water and light. Rico y Ortega's career as a painter flourished outside of Spain, first in Paris and later in Venice. He was part of a generation of young artists who gravitated toward Paris at mid-century, pioneering the path that would subsequently be followed by Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Joan Miro and Salvador Dali, among others.
In 1860, Rico y Ortega received a fellowship that enabled him to pursue further studies in Paris, where he made the acquaintance of the Barbizon painters, particularly Charles-Francois Daubigny. Rico y Ortega first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1864, winning a prestigious silver medal in 1866. During this early period, Rico y Ortega's work reflected the plein-air approach of the Barbizon painters as well as the Realists' emphasis on depictions of everyday life. Rico y Ortega continued to show his work at the annual Paris Salon, and later, at the Salon des Artistes Francais. In 1872, accompanied by Mariano Fortuny, Rico toured Italy. He was enchanted by the splendor of Venice, whose sites, waters and light he captured in innumerable paintings. In 1872, accompanied by Mariano Fortuny, Rico toured Italy. He was enchanted by the splendor of Venice, whose sites, waters and light he captured in innumerable paintings. He returned Paris in time to exhibit seventeen new works at the Exposition Universelle in 1878, where he won a bronze medal at the Exposition and, more importantly, the honor of being made a Chevalier of the Legion d‚ la Honneur. In 1889, he again received a silver medal at the Exposition Universelle.
From 1879, by which time he had made Paris his permanent home, he spent his summers in Venice, renting a palazzo in which to paint. He would often work sitting in a gondola, sketching buildings and bridges as seen from the water. At the age of 74, with a lifetime of artistic success behind him, Martin Rico y Ortega died on April 13, 1908 in his adopted city of Venice.
This striking composition is of one of Rico Y Ortega’s favorite subjects, Venice. Here he depicts a typical Venetian canal with a cityscape in the background. The canal shimmers with the reflections of the buildings. Rico Y Ortega’s thick brushwork lends the painting an Impressionist quality and the color palette enhances the serene atmosphere. Our painting is a charming and typical example of Rico Y Ortega’s work.