FONDAMENTE FURLANI, VENICE
Titled & dated l.l. Oct. 1931, signed l.r.
Pen & sepia ink
18 x 25 cm
Webster was born in New York, the son of a financier who worked for the Armour business interests in Chicago. After several prep schools he studied philosophy at Yale, contributing illustrations to the Yale Record. In 1900 he travelled to Paris for the Exposition Universelle, a formative moment in his artistic career, and he would remain in Paris for several years on and off thereafter. While living there he received art lessons from the Serbian muralist Alphonse Mucha. Before becoming a professional artist, Webster first pursued a number of careers, as a miner, cattle rancher and journalist. In the early part of the 20th century, he trekked the Russian steppes, taking the Trans-Siberian Railway, and travelled onwards to Beijing, Nagasaki and Tokyo, before continuing on to Chicago to inform his family he wished to become an artist. His father insisted he try his hand in business but, when this failed, he was permitted to return to Paris.
Upon his return he studied at the Academie Julien, under Jean Paul Laurens, and received informal printmaking lessons from the Canadian Donald Shaw MacLaughlan. Webster also studied under the French etcher Eugène Béjot during this period. He went on numerous trips around Europe with MacLaughlan, visiting Spain, rural France, Italy and Germany, which were all to provide inspiration for his later works. Some of his finest works are in watercolour and pen and ink, though he was primarily an etcher. Exhibiting at the French salon from 1905, Webster quickly became a respected printmaker and was elected to the French Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1912, the Royal Society of Painter Etchers & Engravers (RE) in 1914 and was even made a knight of the Legion d'Honeur in 1927 (later becoming an Officer in 1956). Webster enrolled in the American ambulance service in France during the War and won the Croix de Guerre in 1916.
The present work is from a trip to Venice between 1930-1932, during which time Webster made numerous prints and pen & ink drawings of the city. Many of these can now be found in the Smithsonian Collection, Washington D.C., which holds more than 200 of the artist's works. His prints and drawings can also be found in the collections of the Harvard Art Museums and the Art Institute of Chicago.