Now after a week’s holiday near Vicenza with my wife Marilyn and some friends, I’ve arrived in Venice. We had a lot of very heavy rain last week and my hope now is that I can catch some of that Venetian light amidst the clouds and rain. Sunday started grey but by the time I came out of San Marco at the end of the morning service the light was bright and the sun was hot. I found a balustrade on which to rest my sketch pad and was soon absorbed in attempting a pen and wash drawing of Palladio’s glorious San Giorgio Maggiore across the water of the San Marco basin. Here’s the photograph – the drawing will have to wait for now. t.
I then walked back to the convent where I am staying which is just a few yards from Santa Maria della Salute. On the way, paused on the Ponte dell’Academia to photograph the classic view of this church. Perhaps I ‘ll be back at the bridge later in the week to have a go at painting it.
In fact, the very next day, I found myself on the bridge – not painting but drawing in water soluble ink while it started to spot with rain! The urgency of the situation resulted in fast work and maybe looser sketching than I have usually allowed myself. Can use see the rain smudges? I decided to try and build on this approach in the days ahead – without the rain hopefully!
- Santa Maria dell Salute in the rain
This is my first visit to Venice. It’s interesting reflecting on first and second impressions. Whenever I’ve mentioned the place to people who have been here they nearly always seem to respond with something like, ‘Ah Venice!’ and then follow this with a long slow sigh.
Within a couple of days I was wondering if it was a giant theme park. Everywhere there were tourists taking several photos a minute (and, at times of course, I was one of them).
There are so many views – and in changing light – reflections of the water, unexpected bridges and alleyways.
And so many places seem like a stage set, complete with crumbling stucco walls and uneven brickwork. Venice seems to take the shabby and transform it into chic. I had often seen impressionistic paintings of Venetian doorways, peeling walls and atmospheric windows – now I understand why. The colours, shapes and shadows are beautiful and they are made so by the light as it reflects on water and other walls.
On one walk, I found myself see patterns and wanting to photograph them – sun and shadow on steps, wrought iron railings on a bridge, gondolas waiting to be repaired and laid out like spoons.
And then there are the landmarks – San Marco – why are so many great buildings clad in scaffolding when I visit them? Santa Maria della Salute, San Giorgio Maggiore, the Doges’ Palace.
Here’s a sketch of Salute. It is a very beautiful building and provides a landmark at the mouth of the Grand Canal, across from San Marco. Underneath the dome it is octagonal and a wonderful space, full of light. I was tempted to sing, despite the flocks of tourists, but for once managed to resist temptation! Here is a view which gives some sense of the height and light of the place.
Then there is the art – Titians and Tintorettos abound. – churches as well as galleries. I visited the Academia (but will have to visit the National Gallery in London to see some Canalettos, as that room was closed for restoration) and the Peggy Guggenheim gallery – which the guidebook claims to have one the most significant collections of twentieth century art outside North America.
One day I visited San Giorgio Maggiore – another landmark and built by Palladio. getting there was not straightforward as the vaporettos seem to have more than one route per numbered route and more than one jetty per bus stop – if you see what I mean. The you’ve got to go in the right direction – which is quite significant for San Giorgio as it is the next stop after San Marco – or the last stop if you happen to go the wrong way… Anyone who knows me knows that I can read timetables only marginally better than I’d manage translating the Rossetti Stone so when the small print is in Italian…. Anyway I managed to find the right jetty on about the sixth attempt.
When I reached San Giorgio I was a bit disappointed as the church had an artistic ‘installation’ called ‘Ascension’. This amounted to vapour rising from the altar area into the dome (and out through an extractor vent). To achieve this dubious artistic symbolism there was a bank of blowers in the four corners of the crossing. The noise was a bit like fifty vacuum cleaners so, despite the beauty of the building it lacked a certain peace! After having a look around at the paintings, amidst the noise, I went and sat onn the main steps outside and enjoyed the view of Venice
I had a go at a larger painting looking across at the Doges’ Palace and St Marks.
My last full day in Venice was Trinity Sunday and I worshipped at the English-speaking St George’s (what else?) Church. But I made an early start and got on the Academia bridge before the crowds arrived. This time the sun was shining and I loved every minute of it. The results were mixed (aren’t they all?) but you will have to look on my art page to see what came up with. Then to church with Hymns Ancient and Modern, followed by a final ramble through the back ways and a very pleasant Sicilian lunch.