An important traveling artist of the pre-impressionist generation, Felix Ziem will forever be connected to the immortal city-state of Venice. He first visited the canaled city in the early 1840s, came back in 1845 for a three-year stay, and visited throughout his career until 1892. Between his Venetian sojourns, he painted views of Constantinople and other cities throughout Europe, and established connections to his artistic peers. He painted next to Charles-Francois Daubigny at Jouarre and Eugene Boudin at Le Havre. In 1864, his primary student was none other than English monarch Queen Victoria.
He may have never discovered Venice, however unlikely, if not for his expulsion from a French architecture academy in Dijon over ‘conduct’. Acknowledging his own sense of roguishness, Ziem turned the situation into an adventure and hit the road as a traveling artist, bound on foot for the Riviera. Even at this pauper’s task he succeeded, foreshadowing the professional success he went on to achieve as a living artist. Not only was the French government soon purchasing his works, but foreign collectors from all over the world made him a sensation at the expositions.
Ziem once wrote that he never felt compelled to paint to please anyone but himself. His artistic output contains a breadth of technical and aesthetic elements, partially due to this personal philosophy. He excelled in inspired use of color, in a style very much his own, and the emotional presentation always as important as his factual content. Venice would be his primary muse, and he, one the cities most important “portraitists”.