John Singer Sargent (1856 - 1925) was born in Florence, Italy, the son of an expatriate American family originally from Gloucester, Massachusetts. Sargent learned to draw, paint watercolors, play the piano and became proficient in four languages at a very young age. American by birth, but European by virtue of his cosmopolitan upbringing and lifestyle, Sargent became the premier portraitist of wealthy French, English and American families. He began his artistic training in Paris at the studio of Carolus-Duran, who instructed his students in direct drawing on the canvas without the underdrawing favored at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Among Sargent's early influences were the Spanish artist Diego Velázquez and the Dutch artist Frans Hals, whose brilliant control of tonal range inspired Sargent's virtuoso technique. He was both praised and criticized for his lush, painterly, brushwork. Best known for his dramatic oil portraits of society women and men, Sargent was an extraordinary watercolorist. His sure brushwork and brilliant use of color are well evidenced in this lighter, more fluid medium that allowed him greater spontaneity and freedom than oils. Doorway of a Venetian Palace shows the grand façade of the Palozzo Balbi built in the 1580s. The oblique angle at which the artist has painted the palace seems to suggest that he was seated in a gondola when he dashed it off. The inscription to "Mrs. Hunter" gives further evidence that it was painted during a pleasurable afternoon and given by the artist as a token of remembrance to another member of the party.