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Edward William Cooke RA, Venice by moonlight

Venice by moonlight, October 29th 1858

Edward William Cooke RA (1811 - 1880)

RA Collection: Art

E. W. Cooke first visited in Venice on August 26th 1850, recording in his diary that 'when the boat entered the Grand Canal, after passing the Salute the Moon rose and revealed the glories of the scene...the Piazza exceeded all that I could possibly have imagined'. The city was particularly captivating to an artist like Cooke who revelled in painting seascapes and boats as well as landscapes and topographical scenes. He returned to Venice on many subsequent sketching trips, making his last visit in 1877. Cooke made a particular study of the variety of different vessels to be found on the waterways of the city, displaying an understanding of their structure which is not necessarily evident in the work of other artists who specialised in Venetian subjects.

Cooke sketched and painted continously when staying in Venice and his published diary entries give further details of his activities. A number of the drawings in this group correspond with Cooke's notes on where and when he sketched particular views, for instance the drawing of the Jewish cemetery on the Lido (05/1178) is mentioned in the artist's diary. Several others drawings apparently relate to painted compositions. On his return, Cooke often took his travel sketchbooks apart and filed them in order for easy reference. They were certainly well used as Cooke virtually based the rest of his exhibiting career on oil paintings of the maritime city, earning himself the nickname 'Venetian Cooke' or 'Il Lagunetto'. At least one of the drawings in this group was also published in Leaves from my Sketchbook (1876).

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This group of 100 drawings consists of travel sketches by E.W. Cooke. They come from a stock of over 20,000 that the artist produced over the course of his career. Following the early death of his wife in 1844, Cooke developed a peripatetic lifestyle, travelling extensively in Britain and Ireland as well as making regular visits to Holland, France, Italy, Germany and Switzerland. He also toured Spain, Egypt and Sweden. Whilst travelling, Cooke filled scores of sketchbooks with his meticulous pencil drawings of seascapes, landscapes, architecture and local scenes. Given the highly detailed nature of his drawings it is perhaps unsurpising that Cooke also made use of a camera lucida and photography in his work.

Cooke's travel sketches were generally made with subsequent engravings or oil paintings in mind and his habit was to take his sketchbooks apart on his return and file them in order. The drawings were later mounted by the artist's sisters, with whom he shared a house. There was a studio sale of Cooke's work shortly after his death in 1880 but this group of drawings was retained by his family and presented to the Royal Academy at a later date.

Many of the drawings were engraved and published in the two editions of Cooke's Leaves from my Sketchbook (1876 and 1877). In the introduction to these publications Cooke wrote, 'Travels in many countries, extending over a period of fifty years, have filled my Sketch-books with several thousand sketches, which have often served to recall to friends pleasant memories of happy days and sunny climes, and excite a wish to visit places alike remarkable for natural beauty and historic interest.'

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Object details

Title
Venice by moonlight
Artist/designer
Date
October 29th 1858
Object type
Drawing
Medium
Pencil on wove paper
Dimensions

153 mm x 234 mm

Collection
Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
05/1320
Acquisition
Given by Miss Laura Cooke 1881 and 17th December 1882
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