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Joseph Mallord William Turner’s The Grand Canal, Venice painted in 1835 is a Romantic painting of the highest calibre.
Turner’s style has often been described as a precursor of Impressionism in his vivid and experiential reproduction of the effects of light. Generally considered the greatest British painter, the Turner Prize is named after the artist and an extensive collection of his work takes pride of place in the Clore wing of the Tate Gallery in London. Remembered for raising landscape painting to a degree of acclaim and artistic merit and championing the dramatic movements of nature over the ubiquitous genre of history painting, Turner’s reproduction of the view of Sta Maria Maggiore was observed from the Palazzo Giustiniani. The viewpoint, a residence that would later become the Hotel Europe, was where Turner stayed during his frequent visits to the city. Visiting Venice for the first time in 1819, the artist was inspired to make frequent series of studies of the city, helping to solidify the Romantic image of Venice that remains in the public consciousness to this day.
This reproduction from life displays a profound Romantic sensibility that imbued his canvases with a sense of majesty, suffused with a remarkable eye for light and color. Combining two viewpoints from the Grand Canal, the buildings on the left are seen from the corner of the Church of Santa Maria della Salute and in a wry employment of artistic licence, Turner extended the height of the Campanile and added a building in the background at the right. The Grand Canal, Venice therefore displays the exuberant liberty and sense of possibility the Turner felt as he captured a view of the city that was so important to the Romantic thinkers of his day.