Where? Gallery 19 of the Legion of Honor Museum
What do you see? A view down the Grand Canal in Venice under somewhat hazy conditions in the middle of the afternoon. On the left is a series of mooring poles were boats can park. At the end of the canal is the Santa Maria della Salute Church. The church has two large domes and a tower, but Monet is more interested in painting the effects of light and the water.
Monet uses blue, pink, and purple tones for most of the painting. The church is painted in lighter tones, and some of these colors comes back in the reflection of the church in the water. Monet was so interested in the effects of light that the true colors of the church are not recognizable in this painting.
Backstory: The Grand Canal is the major waterway that goes through the middle of Venice. Claude Monet painted this painting of the Grand Canal and the Santa Maria della Salute Church from a spot near the Palazzo Barbaro. This palazzo was owned by a Mary Young Hunter, a relative of the American Impressionist painter John Singer Sargent, who had introduced her to Monet’s wife. Over the years, several Impressionist painters, including Monet, were allowed to stay at this place and work on their paintings.
Santa Maria della Salute: The Catholic Santa Maria della Salute Church in Venice is popularly known as the Salute. The church was dedicated to Our Lady of Health and was built to commemorate the end of a catastrophic outbreak of the plague in Venice in 1630. Its impressive dome is an iconic aspect of the skyline of Venice. Not only Monet was inspired by the sight of this church; also artists like Canaletto, Sargent, and Turner included this church in their works.
Other versions: Monet painted six versions of The Grand Canal, Venice during this time in Venice. Monet wanted to paint the same view at the same time of the day, but capture the variations in the weather which would, in turn, lead to different light conditions. Thus, while the outline of the six paintings is the same, the light effects differ. The first picture below is the version in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The second picture below is a version that is part of a private collection. One of the six versions was sold in 2015 for $35.6 million.
Who is Monet? Claude Monet was born in 1840 in Paris and died in 1926 in Giverny, about 45 miles West of Paris. He was one of the founders of Impressionism. At the beginning of his career, his works were not positively received by many people. But he continued to develop his Impressionist style. One of the paintings he created during this time was Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son in the National Gallery of Art.
Eventually, Monet became a very successful painter who was able to sell most of his works for good prices. With the money that he earned, he bought a house in Giverny where he created a beautiful large garden where he could spend much time painting in the outdoors. One of the paintings he created in his garden was The Japanese Footbridge and the Water Lily Pool, Giverny in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Fun fact: Claude Monet had always told his wife that Venice was too beautiful to paint. But when a friend of Monet’s wife presented them with the opportunity to visit the city and stay at her house with a beautiful view, they could not refuse. During his first week in Venice, Monet was still of the opinion that Venice was too beautiful to paint, but after that first week, he could no longer retain himself.
During his almost 2.5 months in Venice in the Fall of 1908, he painted a total of 37 works of Venice, including the six versions of The Grand Canal, Venice. He painted the first part of these works en plein air (outside) and completed the paintings in his studio in Giverny. While he immediately sold 28 of the 37 paintings to a dealer after he got back to France, it would take him three more years to complete the paintings.
Written by Eelco Kappe