A Venetian Romance, Venice in Art and Paintings,

The Doge's Palace by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1887
The Doge's Palace by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1887

Venice in Pictures

I first fell in love with Venice on a hot, humid August day. I stumbled off the train with my rucksack and followed the noisy crowds as they chattered and bantered in at least a dozen languages. A short trip by vaporetto later, and I was there, in the heart of it. Venice. My eyes feasted on the fine old Renaissance buildings with their crumbling facades appearing out of the waves like a vast architectural coral reef. Their very foundations seemed rooted in the fathomless slime green waterways where long black gondolas and snazzy little motor launches wove intricate routes through canals of labyrinthine complexity. The shuttered windows concealed tall, dark, rooms where whole centuries might pass with little changing. History stalked the narrow alleys and canals, cloaked in mystery, and hiding behind a carnival mask. I couldn't help but fall in love.

This timeless jewel of a city is a place where dreams and schemes melt and meld, and vanish slippery as a mermaid's tail fin, into the oily depths, only to re-emerge in new disguises around the next corner. It is a place for statesmen and artisans, sailors and churchmen, writers and artists. Beautiful and intriguing, Venice charms the senses and fires the imagination.

The Grand Canal, A Street Scene in Venice, 1837 by JMW Turner

Turner's Venetian love affair

In 2006, a painting by Joseph Mallord William Turner sold for a staggering £20million, a world record for a British artist. It was just another of his many portraits of Venice, the city which he visited on three separate painting expeditions, and drew on for inspiration repeatedly throughout his long artistic career.

Turner was a master painter of light and atmosphere, and Venice was the ideal subject matter. The painting shown above, (not the £20 million painting!) an oil on canvas, was completed in 1837 and can be found in the Huntingdon Library Art Collection in San Marino, California.

The Grand Canal, Venice c. 1835 by JMW Turner

Light and Atmosphere

Turner was also a master watercolourist, and his style of painting was particularly suited to depicting Venice. Turner's oils are great, but I love his jewel bright water-colours far more. This painting of the Grand Canal just shimmers with light.

On Venice Lagoon by Pietro Gabrin Faro (1856-1926)

What are they up to on Venice Lagoon?

I'd love to tell you what this picture is all about, but sadly I don't know. I've included it because it's quite good fun, and makes a change from the sweeping grandeur of most Venetian painting. The youngsters are obviously up to something here. Are they raiding a nesting box, or rescuing someone whose boat has sunk? The title gives us no clues, and if you know the answer please leave a comment below the hub so that I can post it here!

The Green Sail, Venice, 1904 by Paul Signac

A Pointillist's View of Venice

This fantastic image of Venice was painted in 1904 by Paul Signac, and can be found in the Musee D'Orsay in Paris. Signac studied the work of Georges Seurat as a young artist, and became fascinated with Pointillism and the science behind it. Pointillism uses small dabs of broken colour rather than sweeping brushstrokes, and colours are chosen to harmonize and enhance each other in a very specific way. I love the way the colours work together in 'The Green Sail'.

St Mark's Column by Richard Parkes Bonington c.1828

Ahead of His Time, a Life Cut Short by TB

Richard Parkes Bonington completed this painting in 1828 shortly before his tragically early death aged only 25. The colours, and treatment of the painting as well as the dramatic composition would all suggest the work of a much later artist. Bonington left quite a large body of work considering his limited career span. We can only guess how his work might have developed if he'd lived longer.

Customs Port, Venice, 1901 by Maurice Cullen

A Canadian in Paris

Canadian artist Maurice Cullen (1866-1934) was born in Newfoundland, and became famous for his impressionistic paintings of Quebec. During his early twenties, Cullen visited Europe, and studied the work of the Impressionists in Paris. This painting shows the Customs Port in Venice, and was completed in 1901.

Detail from Das Wunder der Reliquie vom Heiligen Kreuz by Vittore Carpaccio 1494

A Renaissance Venetian

Vittore Carpaccio was born in Venice, into a family of leather merchants. Only sketchy details of his life are available to us, but we do know that his major works were completed between 1490 and 1519, and he is considered to be one of the early masters of the Venetian Renaissance. One of the earliest mentions of Carpaccio is in his uncle, Fra Ilario's will, dated 1472, but very few other clues about his life now remain. He was a pupil in the atelier of Venetian artist Lazzaro Bastiano, and became a major painter of historical and religious subjects.

This detail is from one of Carpaccio's large history paintings, and shows gondoliers on the waterways. I particularly like the little white dog in the foreground boat.

Venetian Scene by James McNeill Whistler 1879

Whistler's year in Venice


In September 1879, James McNeill Whistler, left London, and headed for Venice with sixteen copper plates. His original intention was to spend three months preparing etchings of Venetian scenes. He expected to return to England in December of that year, but he found Venice so enchanting, that he delayed his journey home by more than a year. When he did finally return to London in November 1880 he brought back about fifty etched copper plates and a large number of sketches and studies of Venice.

Whistler exlored the length and breadth of the city, seeking out unusual views and compositions. His Venetian etchings are as varied and different as the city itself. The preparatory sketch shown above, gives a clue as to his method of working, and although not a finished piece, is still, nonetheless, a pleasing work of art. 

Presentation of the ring to the Doges of Venice by Paris Bordone, 1534

Paris Bordone - a Renaissance Master

Paris Bordone was born at Treviso, but moved to Venice as a teenager to take up an apprenticeship with Titian. However, this did not prove to be a successful arrangement, and Bordone was soon taking on commissions in his own right.

Works by Bordone dating from the 1520s onwards are to be found in many cities, including Florence, Glasgow, and Moscow. In 1534-5, he painted the large-scale masterpiece for the Scuola di San Marco a canvas of the Fisherman delivering the Marriage Ring of Venice to the Doge (Accademia). and this is shown above.


Street in Venice by John Singer Sargent, 1882

An American in Europe

John Singer Sargent was born on January 12th, 1856, in Florence, Italy, and died in 1925 in London, England. His parents were American, but throughout his childhood, the family lived an intinerant life, travelling around Europe and existing on a small inheritance and a private income. Singer Sargent is renowned as a portrait painter, and as such, he earned a very handsome living, but his informal back-street paintings of Venice have a completely different flavour to the grand, formally posed portraits that provided his day to day living.

This deliciously loose painting captures a moment in a young girl's life. She is walking down an alley in Venice. Tall, shuttered buildings tower above her providing shade from the relentless Venetian sun. Her hands clasped in front of her, and her eyes downcast, she appears lost in thought. Who is she, and where is she going? It is a secretive, melancholy painting of a transitory moment on a quiet street.

Twilight, Venice by Claude Monet, 1908

Monet's Venetian vacation

The 37 canvases Monet painted during his only visit to Venice, in the autumn of 1908, are some of the most popular and the best known of his paintings. The great man was 68 when he arrived in Venice with his wife Alice. He sent his painting gear on ahead of him, and when they arrived, they stayed at the Barbero Palace on the Grand Canal.

From the moment he saw Venice, Monet felt the urge to paint. All of his Venetian works are of traditional views. They are a record in paint, of the trip of a lifetime for this elderly French couple. Photographs survive of the two of them surrounded by pigeons in St Marks Square. They look delighted to be there.

Grand Canal, Venice 1908 by Claude Monet

Blue and Gold

The Grand Canal is bathed in traditional Monet colours here. Whilst the posts in the foreground emerge from the water vivid and golden, the canal itself, and the buildings beyond are as mellow and harmonious as Monet's paintings of water-lilies at Giverny.

Piazza San Marco with the Basilica by Canaletto,1730

Souvenirs of Venice

British art galleries, museums and stately homes have an astonishing number of Canalettos on display. The painstaking attention to detail in each and everyone of these paintings of Venice gives an almost photographic representation, and yet Signor Canaletto must have turned out literally thousands of them, and all to this high standard. Judging by the number of them in circulation, it would seem that no Grand Tour would be complete without a Canaletto to take home.

Canaletto's father was the painter Bernardo Canal, and to distinguish between them, the younger artist adopted the name Canaletto ("little Canal"). His nephew and pupil Bernardo Bellotto, was also a talented landscape painter, with a similar painting style. Bellotto often used the name Canaletto himself, as this enabled him to capitalise on his uncle's fame, and this perhaps goes some way towards explaining the sheer numbers of Canalettos on display in Europe.

Venetian Fishermen with distant view of San Marco by Martin Rico

Martin Rico, Traveller and Artist

Spanish artist Martin Rico (1833-1908) initially studied under his brother, the engraver Bernardino Rico (1825–94), before enrolling at the Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid where he became a pupil of Jenaro Pérez Villaamil. In 1862, he was granted a bursary to study in Paris, and was greatly influenced by the paintings of the Barbizon school of artists in general, and Charles-François daubigny in particular. Rico travelled around Europe a great deal in his career, and also visited Britain, where he was delighted to see paintings by Turner. Eventually he settled in Venice, which he maintained as his base for more than 30 years, producing many Venetian scenes such as the one shown above.

The Port of Venice by Eduardo Dalbono, 1890

Eduardo Dalbono, Neopolitan Artist

Son of the literary scholar and art critic Carlo Dalbono (1817-80), Eduardo was born in Naples in 1841. He studied art under Guiseppe Mancinelli and Domenico Morelli at the Accademia in Naples, and graduated from there to become a painter of landscapes and historical scenes.

This fine study of boats in the Venetian Port employs a pallet of mainly pink and blue to great effect. The boats seem to sail straight out of the mist, and Venice can only be distantly seen as a cluster of sketchily painted buildings on the horizon.

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Comments 59 comments

Elena. profile image

Elena. 7 years ago from Madrid

Hello, Amanda!  What a nice "afternoon break" this was! :-)  As I started reading and looking at the paintings I was so inspired to do a photo hub of Venice, but I quickly thought "naaaah, I can't compete with Turner, Monet and the likes of them!" Laugh 

BTW, Rico I do know -- well, have heard of :-)

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Elena, I don't know what it is about Spanish artists, but I can never find much info on them. Rico has a fantastic body of work posted on the net, yet I could find out very little about him compared to other artists. He's certainly a great artist though.

You should post a Venice photo hub. There's always room for hubs on Venice. and your photos are great!

pgrundy 7 years ago

How beautiful! I love your art hubs. I would also love to see Venice some day. Maybe I will--you never know what's around the corner. If I don't, at least I can keep tuning in to your hubs. I think we have similar tastes when it comes to art. I especially like the John Singer Sergeant painting you have here. Thank you Amanda! Really enjoyed this. :)

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Pam, I've been there three times, and would still love to go again. Having said that, I'd avoid high summer next time as the canals aren't always as fragrant as you might wish, though even when it's stinky, it's still beautiful.

The Singer Sargent is also one of my favourites, but then I like most of his paintings. I particularly like his water-colours, which are not so well-known, but really wonderful.

BrianS profile image

BrianS 7 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

Some great art by some wonderful painters and another reminder that I really need to visit Venice.

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Brian, You're more than half way there these days! It's certainly worth the trip, and I'm sure you'll get there some day.

Writer Rider 7 years ago

Nice, beautiful colors. In a way, though these are merely paintings and jewelry, they bring Venice and its culture to life. Thanks for the hub!

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Writer Rider. Paintings often say more than photographs, I think, because art captures life in a different way. Many of the pictures featured are looking at very similar views, yet they all say something different about the artist's experience of Venice.

Raven King profile image

Raven King 7 years ago from Cabin Fever

Hi Amanda Severn. Wow, I really like you writing so vivid and exciting! The paintings are beautiful. Many Hugs! xoxo

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Raven King, thank you for your kind words, and good to get a visit from a fellow artist. Cheers! xoxo

Mrvoodoo profile image

Mrvoodoo 7 years ago from ?

Beautifully written and great art, Venice is certainly somewhere I'd like to visit one day, I like the way you describe it as being like a coral reef, totally set the scene for me.

What are those children up to on Venice Lagoon?  hmmmm, it does look like they're up to know good, my first thought was that it looked like a bird house, maybe stealing eggs, but who would keep their chickens out there?  Then I wondered if it was some kind of light house, maybe they're changing a candle (I guess they didn't have light bulbs then) but is that a smaller lamp sticking out from the top of it?  I give up, lol, great hub.

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

It's a bit of a mystery that painting. There's probably a perfectly reasonable explanation. It kind of reminds me of those shelters on stilts that you see on causeways for over-optimistic motorists to take refuge in.

RGraf profile image

RGraf 7 years ago from Wisconsin

These are just beautiful. No, breathtaking. I wish I could go someday.

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

I could look at pictures of Venice all day. It's a fabulous place. I inter-railed round Europe when I was about 19 and my Mum gave me enough money to phone her from a public call box each night. In Venice I stood by a quay where the water gently lapped the pavement a few yards away, and gondolas were tied to posts just a little way out. I remember saying to my Mum "I'm in Venice and I can see gondolas," to which she replied, just as she had when I'd called from Paris, and Monte Carlo, and Marseille and Geneva, "That's nice dear."

James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

What a fantastic HUB!  What a great idea for a HUB!  Your writing skill is most impressive—and expressive.  The paintings are gorgeous.  The Canaletto is incredible—I thought it was a photograph at first.  The Cullen and the Faro are very interesting.  The Bordone is beautiful.  But the Grand Canal by Turner is exquisite!

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

James, I have to confess that I have you to thank for this hub. I enjoyed your travel hub on Venice so much, that I was inspired to look at some of the many Venetian paintings there are around. If you have no objection, I'd love to place a link to your hub in the text of this one.

Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

Funny, I woke up thinking we need to go back to Italy real soon and the first place needs to be Venice. Love Venice and enjoyed this hub and the paintings.

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Jerilee. Italy is my favourite European country to visit, and Venice is my favourite city there, although I also love Florence and Bologna. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub, and I hope you get the chance to go to Italy again soon.

James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

I could never object to that. I'll do the same, if that's OK.

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

James, I've added the link, and yes, please do the same if you would like to.

James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

Amanda, I have your link in place. Thanks for the ingenious idea! :D

blondepoet profile image

blondepoet 7 years ago from australia

Beautiful art and a great slice from History, thanks heaps Amanda for sharing this (hugs)

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author


Thanks for stopping by. Venice is a beautiful place. It could make an artist of us all!

2patricias profile image

2patricias 7 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

This is a wonderful Hub - thank you for putting so much time and effort into selecting these paintings, and telling us about them.

Pat saw the Whistler etchings in Cambridge last winter - they are truly marvellous. If anybody has the opportunity, take time for a proper view.

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

I would love to see the Whistler etchings in the flesh. Whistler was a towering talent, and his etchings are some of his finest work. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

anjalichugh profile image

anjalichugh 7 years ago from New York

Wow! The pictures were exquisite. Thx for uploading them here. I wish I get a chance to visit Venice before I die. I read a lot about it in my school days. I guess this place is still holding on to its heritage. Great hub.

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Anjali, If you ever get the chance to visit Venice, just say YES! It's the most amazing and unique place. Thank you for stopping by. I t's good to see you here.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 7 years ago from UK and Mexico

Hi Amanda I was fascinated with Venice in that movie with Marcelo Mastroianni where he went with a whore who was really his wife. Can't remember though its famous was it Fellini? And the specials on BBC by de Mosto, fabulous character. I admire Italians and am a bit in awe of them anyway and have some good Italian friends. I would like to live in Venezia I miss Fellini

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

I don't think I've seen that film, but I did see some of the de Mosto series. He's very charismatic and entertaining. I've always enjoyed Italy whenever I've been there. I like Venice very much, and I also have fond memories of Bologna where I once spent a week exhibiting in the exposition halls. Venezia would be quite a fun place to live. I've never been there for carnival, but maybe one day...

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

Amanda, this is fabulous!

Your expressive writing matches the beauty of the artwork.

I love how the colors shine in The Grand Canal, Venice by Turner. And those boat sails coming out of the fog by Dalbono were wonderful. Each piece you selected had great merits.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Peggy, thank you for your kind comments. There are so many paintings of Venice around that it's quite hard to choose between them, so of course I just chose my favourites!

IslandVoice profile image

IslandVoice 7 years ago from Hawaii

What a fabulous collection of paintings on Venice. My husband who has traveled to Venice say's we will go one of these days. But your art presentation was such a delight. Turner's Canals are truly lovely.

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi IslandVoice, Turner's Venice paintings are a real treat. I have a book at home with a collection of them in,and I'm hard pushed to choose a favourite, as they're all gorgeous!

knell63 profile image

knell63 7 years ago from Umbria, Italy

Only just found this hub, where had you hidden this one? Lovely hub, so many gorgeous views of Venice through the ages. You have to love Canaletto's work, I'm working his story at the minute. I also love the simplicity of Sargents street scene.

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

The Canalettos are great, aren't they? The man was like a human camera, and even though it's not my kind of art, I have to admire his meticulous eye for detail. Sargent is much more to my liking, as I prefer the looser brush strokes and feeling of immediacy.

nikki1 profile image

nikki1 7 years ago

great hub/artwork.. very informative.

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Thanks for stopping by Nikki.

Cassidella profile image

Cassidella 6 years ago

Hello Amanda,

This beautiful presentation was like a nice excursion to the wing of an art gallery in Venice without leaving the comfort of my own home, which happens to be in the snowbound zone right now. Thanks for sharing!

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UK Author

Hi Cassidella

We had a dusting of snow ourselves last night, but luckily it's already melting (I'm on the southern coast of the UK) I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. Venice is very inspiring for artists.

nikki1 profile image

nikki1 6 years ago

WOw, incredible artwork : ). Loved them.

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UK Author

Hi Nikki, thank you for stopping by and commenting.

free-recipesnow 6 years ago

Very Beautiful Pic

i like all pic

Thanks of Lot

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UK Author

Hi free-recipesnow, thanks for stopping by and admiring the gallery. It's always good to have visitors!

Chris Miller 6 years ago

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UK Author

Hi Chris, these are helpful links. Thanks for posting.

soumyasrajan 6 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

Enjoyed very much your hub Amanda! I just felt as if I was in Venice 100 years before the time I was actually there first time (about 35 years back)

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UK Author

Hi soumyasrajan, Some of these paintings are even older than 100 years old, but I kind of know what you mean. Venice is very crowded these days, and it would have been fantastic to set up an easel next to Whistler or Singer Sergeant.

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

I really enjoyed this Hub and the really beautiful paintings you have included and written about. I guess the Turners and Monets are the picks for me!

Would like to link this to my Venezia Serenissima Hub, if you don't mind.

Love and peace


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UK Author

Hi Tony, I've just visited your hub, and would be very happy to link with it. Do you mind if I do vice versa?

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

No problem! Have done likewise!

agraj.us 5 years ago from CA, US

what if someone want to buy them all ?

MichaelStonehill profile image

MichaelStonehill 5 years ago

This is a very nice collection of romantic and modern paintings of Venice. The are also good paintings of Venice by Francesco Guardi, Pietro Longhi, Antonio Visentini, Ippolito Caffi, Manet, Dufy, Pietro Fragiacomo, and others. I think that Canaletto and Carpaccio were the best painters of Venice.

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 5 years ago from UK Author

Thanks for your comment Michael. Venice has certainly attracted the attention of a range of artists over the centuries. Canaletto depicted the city with almost photographic realism, and his paintings provide us with a wealth of useful historical detail. Turner is one of my own favourites, as he had such a gift for capturing light and atmosphere.

MichaelStonehill profile image

MichaelStonehill 5 years ago

Canaletto used camera obscura for the creation of his paintings. However, his paintings are not mere depiction of reality, but an expression of Venice's poetic atmosphere. Prior to romanticism and modernism, great painters knew how to be expressive without neglecting the importance of keen details. This is one of the key elements of the traditional Venetian school of art. And yet, in comparison to the Florentine tradition, Venetian style was rather free, making the possibility for the later developments of romantic and modern movements of art, and for artists like Turner, Monet and Whistler.

cressinia profile image

cressinia 5 years ago

Some of the best paintings featuring backgrounds from 15th and 16th century are hung at the Accademia in Venice, especially those in Room 20 by Bellini.

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 5 years ago from UK Author

Hi Cressinia, I have never visited the Accademia in Venice, but I will remember your reccommendation when I visit again. From an artist's perspective, Venice is a dream city to paint, and I imagine Bellini would have felt the same! Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 20 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Amanda, this was another beautiful art history hub with well-detailed insight on the Venetian paintings and on those artists. This was beautiful and interesting to get voted up!

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 20 months ago from UK Author

Hi Kristen, thank you for your kind comments. I took my children to Venice a couple of years ago, and it really is a unique and magical place.

Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 20 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Amanda, my pleasure. It sounds like a magical place to me. My brother, SIL and her two sons are going to Italy this Christmas season for their European family location. I would love to go there someday.

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