Venetian Gondola Pierre-Auguste Renoir Buy Art Prints Now
from Amazon

* As an Amazon Associate, and partner with Google Adsense and Ezoic, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir returned from Algeria where he developed new pictorial techniques and avoided the contemporary tradition of showing popular artistic settings of beauty without realism and liveliness

His oil painting named 'Venetian Gondola' was made in 1881. It was made about one year after the painter's return from Algeria. Renoir decided to portray Venice in a way that was a radical departure from the traditional Venetian vedute.

However, remnants of tradition and Renoir's own influences can still be seen in the painting.

A gondolier is transporting two ladies across the canal. They are on their way to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, possibly to survey the sixteenth-century church by Palladio. An Italian girl sits on the water's edge, she is looking towards the higher up artist. Turner had earlier captured The Grand Canal whilst John Singer Sargent painted Spirito Santo Saattera and Sketching on the Giudecca.

The painting follows a tradition running from Rubens to Watteau of celebrating beauty, and feminine sensuality. However, Renoir reacted to more restrained and moderate portrayals of the city's famous monuments, skylines, and canal. He represented major landmarks in a much more colorful and abstract way.

The canal is set between the Ca' Foscari palace and the Rialto Bridge which is barely recognizable. The painter used varied brushstrokes and quick strikes of paint and used various shades of color. He used new pictorial techniques learned in Algeria to show nuances in light and shadow.

Pierre Auguste-Renoir was a renowned leader of the impressionist movement. His controversial painting recalls scenes of the Gondola moving around the Grand Canal from Manet's 1874 visit to Venice. However, Renoir used large scaled figures in the background including the shapely Gondola itself and the panoramic view across the water of the Dogana, Venetian Customs House and more distant Campanile of San Marco.

His work has also been compared with the work of John Singer Sargent, who had visited a year before Renoir, in 1880. His use of color is influenced by the colorism of Eugène Delacroix and the luminosity of Camille Corot. Renoir also admired the realism of Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet, and his early work resembles theirs in his use of black as a color. This can be seen in the color of the Gondola and boats in the background.

The painting demonstrates Renoir's mastery at showing present moments of delight with a warm and joyful demonstration of color, light, shadow, and silhouette. His use of darker colors often used by realists is contrasted with sharp, obscure colors and his use of femininity. The movement of water and characters are shown in light of the barely recognizable panoramic view of the city's landmarks. This gives the observer a feeling of the present situation movement and vibrancy of the Venetian canals.