George Charles Haité was a largely self-taught artist who, as well as producing English landscapes, painted in Venice, Spain and Morocco. He was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in 1901, and also exhibited with the Royal Society of British Artists. He worked as a designer of wallpaper, metalwork and glass, and as an illustrator. He designed the cover for The Strand Magazine when it was first published in 1891. He was president of the Langham Sketching Club, and inaugural president of the London Sketch Club in 1898.
The artist chose a wide, horizontal format for Venetian fruit stall in order to draw the spectator’s attention to the bountiful display of fruits and vegetables in the foreground. The watercolour harks back to market scenes in 17th-century Northern European art with their lavish presentations of fruits and vegetables piled high on tables and heaped into overflowing baskets.
The visually appealing subject matter was described in The Sydney Morning Herald review of the New Zealand International Exhibition, from where the watercolour was purchased in 1906 for the Art Gallery of NSW collection: ‘...Mr. C. Haite’s ‘Venetian Fruit Stall’, brilliant in colour and audacious in execution. All the tints of the rainbow are employed to depict the luscious fruit; great clusters of purple grapes contrast with the vivid hues of the oranges, the yellow pumpkins and the creamy blood-stained watermelons. Beyond the fruit stall, which is in shadow, is seen the picturesque Venetian street bathed in sunlight.’
The view is from the west, looking across the Canale della Giudecca to the Palladian church of San Giorgio Maggiore in the distance. But more than a straightforward topographic view, the watercolour is ostensibly a Venetian genre painting, with its emphasis on anecdotal reportage featuring local figures for human interest.
Venetian scenes depicting the inhabitants of the city along with colourful incidental details became increasingly popular over the course of the 19th century and were produced in large numbers by the steady stream of visiting foreign painters and Italian artists alike.
Adapted from Victorian watercolours, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 2017