Grand Canal Venice William Turner Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Venice is one of those places that draws the imagination of the distant observer; a city with canals for roads, and boats instead of land-based transport.

It is a long-running fascination that William Turner presents in his painting 'Grand Canal, Venice' which depicts the largest, busiest canal of the city bathed in warm light.

The painting, created toward his later career, is not the only one showing the city of Venice. As an unusual city, Turner seemed drawn to it, and with his predeliction for painting water and sky it is not difficult to imagine why.

With the sky so bright and warm in this scene, the water seems cooler and calming to the eye. The sunlight appears to glow right off the canvas, pouring into the room wherever this painting would hang.

The buildings capture a time long past, and the people go about their lives, all adding to the complexity and joyous feeling of the bright painting.

The details are fantastic, showing the busyness of the waterway without overcrowding the scene, but it is once again Turner's use of colour and light that steals the show.

Turner takes the simple tools of paint and canvas and brings a scene to life. It's no secret how he does that: his expert choice of colours used in just the right way always brings the light shining from the canvas, and the warmth of this painting shows how successful it can be.

The cool blue of the water seems simple upon first glance, but then the shallow, pale reflections of the dignified buildings begin to seep in, along with the slight shapes of the onlookers.

The Grand Canal itself is known for being one of the main waterways through the city, and it is likely that it follows the line of some ancient river, long forgotten.

Today the scene on the Grand Canal may be lit with artificial light and full of a different kind of dress, but the same shape and feel as today is immortalized in this painting that is now almost two hundred years old.

Though not one of Turner's most famous works, it holds a permanent place in the hearts of his fans. After all, it is an excellent example of how Turner could take one simple idea and build it up in careful layers until a delicate and bright piece of art is completed.