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Fine Art, Sandor Bernath, Ca’ d’Oro Venice, Watercolor, mid 20th Century


Sàndor Bernàth (1892-c. 1984)
Ca’d’Oro Venice View
American: c. 1945 to 1955
Watercolor on wove paper
Signed lower left: Sàndor Bernàth
15.5 x 19 inches
14.5 x 16.5 inches, mat opening
24 x 25.75 inches, in gold leaf frame
$1,900, framed

A gondolier guides three passengers down a canal in Venice, passing the ornate Gothic façade of the Ca’ d’Oro, a sumptuous Renaissance building with colorful details: pink and orange walls behind the graceful columns, yellow shutters with contrasting blue-violet shadows in the windows, and a pink roof behind a curving row of white posts topped with trefoil decorations. Figures dressed in white stand beneath the central arch at the water’s edge and two gondolas are docked there.

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The Ca’ d’Oro is an exquisite Gothic palazzo on Venice ‘s Grand Canal, constructed by Marino Contarini, a wealthy merchant, between 1421 and 1440. It took its name from its gilded façade (Ca’ d’Oro meaning “House ofGold”), though the gold has since worn off. It now serves as an art museum named Galleria Giorgio Franchetti after the Italian baron who bought the building in 1894 and restored it to its 15th-century state,to the extent practicable. His art collection forms the corpus of the work on display there.

Sàndor Bernàth was a prolific American watercolorist, and a member of the American Watercolor Society. He was born in Hungary, but emigrated to America early in his career. Bernàth began exhibiting watercolor landscapes in New York by the early 1920s, including European and New York scenes. He was also painting seascapes of New England, including Cape Cod; an extant Bernàth work of dunes in Cape Cod is dated 1928, and one of Long Point Light, Provincetown, Cape Cod, is dated 1935. From the 1920s to 1940s he lived in Maine, although he continued to travel. He painted many views of the Maine coast, one of which was purchased by the Brooklyn Museum of Art. A favorite New England subject was yachts, with their bold geometric sunlit white sails. In his mid career, Bernàth traveled to Taos, New Mexico where he painted numerous landscape watercolors featuring its snowy mountains and adobe buildings. He also worked as an illustration artist for many New York City advertising agencies in the 1950s, frequently bringing his pictures to sell directly to executives working at the firms for their private collections. In the 1970s, Bernàth relocated with his wife to a beach house in Belfate, Honduras, where he painted various watercolors of coastal landscapes, boating, and palm trees. Bernàth spent the last few years of his life in the Central American nation of Belize, and died there in about 1984.

Bernàth early on developed a characteristic style of smoothly delineated forms with strong contrasts of light and shadow in which details are subordinated to full shaded geometric shapes of the main subject. Bernath’s use of chiaroscuro and the geometrical balance of positive and negative space contribute to the isolated monolithic rendition of the main subjects of his work. It has been observed that Bernath’s style — in his use of precise, sharply defined, geometrical forms — relates to the those of the slightly older American Precisionist painters Edward Hopper, Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth. Indeed, he is sometimes referred to as a “student of Edward Hopper,” but this likely is metaphorical rather than literal. His later works in the 1970s, when he relocated to the Central America, represent somewhat of a shift in style, more painterly and atmospheric.

Condition: Generally very good, the colors bright, with only minor toning, handling and wear. Tape residue verso outer margins from former matting, appears to be stable and not affecting the image on the front.


“Galleria Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca’ d’Oro.” Soprintendenza Speciale peril Polo Museale Veneziano.’oro/frame_ca_doro.htm(27 April 2004).

“Sandor Bernath.” Askart. 2000-2018. (16 May 2018).

Additional information


20th Century