Grand Canal, Venice

The Grand Canal
The Grand Canal, Venice

The view from the Academia Bridge of the Santa Maria della Salute is probably the definitive view of Venice. In 1630 Venice experienced a devastating outbreak of the plague. The Republic of Venice vowed to build a church to be dedicated to Our Lady of Health. A student of Andre Palladio, Baldassare Longhena designed the Santa Maria della Salute in the Baroque style. Inside the church, many of the objects of art bear references to the Black Death.

When one stands on the bridge with sketchbook and brush in hand, one is acutely aware of the great artists like Canaletto, J.M.W. Turner and John Singer Sargent who have gone before and painted the very same scene. At this point, it is tempting to shrink back and not bother as you just know that there will be passers by leaning over your shoulder to offer criticism, but that’s the easy option. Instead, it’s head down and paint!

Over the years I’ve made several sketch book studies from this view point. The watercolour above is a studio production based on those studies and my own reference photographs. I was so pleased with the result that I’ve kept the original which hangs in our living room and have reproduced it as a limited edition print. It has to be one of my favourite paintings of Italy.

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