Monet in Venice.

Monet in Venice. The French impressionist painter (1840-1926) and wife visited Venice in October 1908; staying for two months.

He produced only 37 oil-on-canvas paintings, in preliminary form, featuring around a dozen different views; all taken around the southern end of the Grand Canal, in St Mark’s Square and across the Basin; all within a short distance of one another. As in his series paintings, he was concerned with the changing play of light on well-known Venetian landmarks. These works in the fall of 1908; are among the most popular and the best known of his art works. 

Back home in his studio at Giverny, all but one of the paintings were reworked and finished. Sadly, his wife Alice, died in 1911. It was not until the following year in 1912, that twenty-nine Venetian canvases; were put on exhibit at the G allery “Bernheim-Jeune” in Paris. It was an enormous success.

Monet died of lung cancer on 5 December 1926, at the age of 86 and is buried in the Giverny church cemetery.




Monet was 68 when he and his wife Alice, travelled to Venice for the first and only time. He had visited Italy before, but only as far as Bordighera; a few kilometres from Menton. The opportunity arose when their English friend, Mary Hunter; persuaded him to make the trip. The Monet’s agreed and stayed in the Barbaro Palace on the Grand Canal.

Alice Monet was overjoyed at the thought of visiting Venice. Claude was usually reluctant to leave their house in Giverny, where Monet had spent five years; obsessively painting his beloved “Water Lily” series.

Claude MonetWhen Monet left Giverny for Venice in the Autumn of 1908, he had not planned to paint Venice. The initial plan was to have a ‘non-working holiday’. In fact, he was reluctant to paint this city, that so many others had already immortalised on their canvases. Fortunately for us all, Claude Monet did have the foresight; to send his painting materials; ahead of his visit to Venice.

According to the artist himself, he did only “trials and beginnings” in Venice. Although the canvases were finished afterwards in studio, they do not have the same impasto as other works Monet had struggled with; like the Rouen Cathedral series.

Thanks to Alice, we have all the details about their Italian stay; for she wrote daily to her daughter Germaine Salerou. They tell of the highs and lows of their stay. This correspondence was published in 1986, by Germaine Salerou’s grandson (Philippe Piguet, “Monet et Venise”, published by Herscher).




They arrived in Venice by train, on October 1, 1908 and stayed at the Barbaro Palace on the Grand Canal.

On arrival, Monet was apparently overwhelmed with the beauty of this city. To quote is first words: “It is too beautiful to be painted! It is untranslatable!”  But of course he took up the challenge. for as soon as his painting materials arrived and the weather became acceptable; he started to work on October 9. He had used the time to familiarise himself; restricting himself to the with the southern part of the Grand Canal and the San Marco Basin.

He recognised the potential of concentrating on capturing the effects of changing light, on some of Venice’s main structural landmarks. He noted the effects of light on each of his chosen scenes, at different times; from sunrise to sunset.

At the end of the day, Monet treated himself and Alice to a sunset gondola ride. They were back at their hotel by 7 p.m.

Still hesitant about his work at that point, in a letter to the art seller Gaston Bernheim on October 25th, Monet wrote: “Although I am enthusiastic about Venice, and though I’ve started a few canvases, I’m afraid I will only bring back beginnings that will be nothing else but souvenirs for me”.


Claude and Alice Monet in VeniceMOVE TO THE GRAND HOTEL BRITANNIA

Their friend Mary Hunter was forced to leave Venice, after welcoming them for two weeks. The Monet’s then settled in the Grand Hotel Britannia, because Monet had “begun to paint marvelous things” under his wife’s admiring eyes. Full of enthusiasm thanks to the fine weather, he started new canvases every day.

In the morning, the timetable did not change; in the afternoon, Monet painted “on the canal” and after that through the hotel window. “The view out of our window is marvelous. You couldn’t dream of anything more beautiful and it is all for Monet“, Alice told her daughter.

The Monet’s, certainly appreciated the comfort of the hotel and its “electric lighting”. Alice wrote: “It’s magic! Monet can see his canvases – it is delicious and makes you wish you had it at home“. They were to have electricity installed in Giverny, upon their return.



Ups and downs in his mood and periods of self-doubt over his work; would occur several times during his stay in Venice.

Several days of rainy, cold and windy weather infuriated Monet and relegated him to inactivity. He spoke of leaving and returning the following year.

When the sun reappeared however, Monet continued painting. In spite of these breaks, the work went on, Alice being “happy to see Monet so impassioned, doing such beautiful things and between you and me; something other than those same old water lilies.”

Only cold made Monet give up, in spite of the fur coat kindly lent by Louis Aston Knight, a young American painter living in Rolleboise, near Giverny; whom they happened to have met at the hotel. On December 3, Monet painted a final sketch, featuring a gondola.



They left on December 7, ten weeks after their arrival; never to return. Sadly, Alice’s health began to fail shortly thereafter and she died in 1911.

Monet would wait a long time before completing the canvases in his studio. In fact, he began to rework them in November 1910. Interestingly, he never retouched the last one, “The Gondola“, which he presented his friend Georges Clemenceau. (It is now to be seen in the Museum of Fine Arts in Nantes, France.)

In 1912, four years after the trip, 29 out of the 37 canvases were exhibited at the Gallery “Bernheim-Jeune” in Paris. The exhibition was an enormous success, despite Monet’s own reservations about his work and remarking that “these paintings were anything special“.  (Note. In February 2019, one of Monet’s Venice paintings auctioned at Sotheby’s, London and was sold for a staggering price of £27,500,000.) 

A beautiful tribute was paid by artist Paul Signac, 23 years younger than Monet, who attended the exhibition: “When I looked at your Venice paintings with their admirable interpretation of the motifs I know so well, I experienced a deep emotion, as strong as the one I felt in 1879 when confronted by your train stations, your streets hung with flags, your trees in bloom, a moment that was decisive for my future career. And these Venetian pictures are stronger still, where everything supports the expression of your vision, where no detail undermines the emotional impact, where you have attained the selflessness advocated by Delacroix. I admire them as the highest manifestations of your art


Monet died of lung cancer on 5 December 1926, at the age of 86 and is buried in the Giverny church cemetery.




More classic views captured by artists can be seen in my galleries G1, 2, 35 and 48.

Other posts in the category of Art-Music-Literature

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21 Facts About Claude Monet | Impressionist & Modern Art | Sotheby’s


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