Venetian Views looks at Venice, the oft-flooded city of canals that has captivated artists and writers for centuries. Shakespeare, Lord Byron, J. M. W. Turner, and John Singer Sargent, among others, have fallen under her spell. In its Renaissance heyday, Venice gave rise to great masters such as Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and Tintoretto. Two centuries later, Venice enjoyed a second artistic highpoint, led by artists known as the vedutisti (view-painters), the greatest of whom were Canaletto, his nephew Bernardo Bellotto, and Francesco Guardi.

Around 1700, when Venice was well past its commercial and naval prime, the Grand Tour had become immensely popular among the northern European aristocracy, especially in Great Britain. A crucial part of a young gentleman’s education, the purpose of such travels was to study languages, music, etiquette, while acquiring luxury goods, and fine art. Wealthy Grand Tourists created a thriving market for view-painters and portraitists alike.

A century later, James A. M. Whistler and contemporaries like D. Y. Cameron reinvented the tradition of Venetian view-painting through printmaking techniques and dramatic interiors. Venice has continued to be an irresistible draw on artists to the present day. The luminous watercolors of Timothy J. Clark, likewise, are the successors to Sargent’s ethereal atmospheres of light, mist, and color. Hovering precariously between dry land and deluge, Venice has enchanted its visitors to the present day.

Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto (1697–1768). The Grand Canal, Venice, looking north-west, with the Palazzo Pesaro and the Palazzo Foscarini. Oil on canvas. On loan from the Grasset Collection.