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Monet’s Venice Landscapes (Oct 1908 – Dec 1908)

Claude Monet’s Venice landscapes are considered the most popular and best known of his artworks. In his wildest dreams, Monet would never have thought that these paintings would one day become iconic.

In February 2019, one of Monet’s Venice landscapes auctioned at Sotheby’s. It hammered down at a staggering price of £27,500,000 (YEP- you read it correctly – 27.5 million English pounds!!)

Church of San Giorgio Maggiore -Venice  Landscapes - Claude Monet painting
Church of San Giorgio Maggiore -Venice Landscapes – Claude Monet [Public Domain]

Monet wrote in a letter to the art seller Gaston Bernheim on October 25:

“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”,

The two months Monet spent in Venice are documented by the many letters he and his wife Alice sent to friends and family in France. They tell of the highs and lows during their visit.

Monet Reluctantly Agrees to Leave His Water Lilies

Monet was 68 when they traveled to Venice. He had traveled to Italy before but only to Bordighera, a few kilometers from Menton. The opportunity arose when their English friend, Mary Hunter, persuaded them to make the trip. The Monets agreed and stayed in the Barbaro Palace on the Grand Canal.

The Grand Canal, Venice - Claude Monet Painting
The Grand Canal, Venice – Claude Monet Painting [Public Domain]

Alice Monet was overjoyed as Claude was usually reluctant to leave their house in Giverny. Monet had been obsessively painting his beloved water lilies over the past five years!

Monet Falls in Love with Venice

When Monet left Giverny for Venice in the fall of 1908, he did not plan on painting Venice. Monet was hesitant to paint a place that so many others had already painted. The plan was to have a ‘non-working holiday’ with his wife Alice. However, Monet sent his painting materials to Venice ahead of his visit…. just in case!

Once they arrived in Venice, Monet was overwhelmed by the beauty surrounding him..Monet’s first words were:

“It is too beautiful to be painted! It is untranslatable!”

Monet Excitedly Paints Venice

Monet being Monet, couldn’t resist the challenge and as soon as the weather permitted, he started painting!  He was up early to watch Venice at sunrise and continued to paint until the sunset. He was frantically painting, starting a new canvas every day.

Venice Landscape - Claude Monet Painting
Venice Landscape – Claude Monet Artwork [Public Domain]

Alice Monet writes to her daughter:

 “The view out of our window is marvelous. You couldn’t dream of anything more beautiful and it is all for Monet”.

Monet had mood swings during his time in Venice. On beautiful sunny days, he was outside painting en plein air and full of creative motivation. However, when the weather turned cold and rainy, he felt depressed and unhappy with his unfinished paintings.

In fact, Monet thought his Venice landscapes were quite ugly.

Venice Painting by Claude Monet
Venice Painting by Claude Monet

After ten weeks in Venice, the Monets finally left and returned to their home in Giverny, Normandy. They vowed to return to this magical Italian city. But they never did as Alice died three years later.

A Gallery in Paris Exhibits Monet’s Venice Landscapes

Only a few days after his return from Venice, Bernheim-Jeune bought twenty-eight of the thirty-seven Venice Landscapes. Monet held onto these incomplete paintings in his studio in Giverny. In 1912 and after his wife’s death, Monet finished these canvases. He gave them to Bernheim-Jeune and was ready to have them exhibited in Paris.

The exhibition was a huge success!

Monet’s Venice by the The National Gallery

Signac’s Letter to Monet After Viewing the Exhibition

The young emerging artist, Paul Signac writes the following words to Claude Monet after viewing the beautiful Venice landscapes at 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”

The Palazzo Ducale by Claude Monet
The Palazzo Ducale – Claude Monet Venice landscape

Traveling into Monet’s Venice Landscapes

Claude Monet is only one of millions of people who fall in love with beautiful Venice. It is such a special city. There is no where in the world like Venice! It is beautiful, magical and timeless.

Venice at Sunset
Venice at Sunset / Photo by Pedro Szekely (CC BY-SA 2.0)

To fully enjoy Venice, there are important things that you should consider before planning your trip.  

Avoid Venice in the Summer – It is Hot & Crowded!

If possible, try not to visit Venice in the summer months! It is very hot and unbelievably crowded with both international and Italian tourists! Over 20 million tourists flock to small Venice every year! A large proportion of these tourists come in the summer months! The ideal months to visit are April, May, September, and October. The weather is still warm and it is far less crowded than the crazy months of June, July and August! 

Venice canal , bridge and church
The Magical Views of Venice / Photo by seth m (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Book a Hotel in Venice Island & Experience the Magical Evenings

If you are visiting Venice for a few days, stay in Venice Island and not in mainland Italy (like Mestre). Mestre is a cheaper option for sure, but you miss out on experiencing Venice at night.

Keep in mind that the large majority of tourists visit Venice as day trips only. They arrive in the morning and depart late afternoon. Venice empties out by the evening hours and this is the most magical time to be on the island. 

If you decide to stay on Venice Island, find accomodation near a Vaporetto station. Trust me, you do not want to lug heavy suitcases in Venice for any long distance…. there are endless steps and bridges to navigate!

Be the Ultimate Tourist & Go on a Gondola Ride

Go on a gondola ride!!!! It is expensive but sooooooooo worth it! Don’t take a gondola ride on the grand canal as you can do that with a Vaporetto . Instead, ride on a gondola through the smaller canals of Venice. It is wondeful. Try to bargain down the price! The lower the tourist season, the better the price!!

Gondola ride in Venice
Gondola ride in Venice / Photo by Mariusz Kucharczyk (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Sail to the Beautiful Islands Close to Venice – They are Stunning!

If you are in Venice for more than two days, take a boat out to the neighbouring islands of Burano & Murano. These islands are often overlooked and are breathtakingly beautiful. Press here for details.

Burano Island, Venice
Stunning Burano

Sail along the Grand Canal just Before Sunset & Watch Venice Light Up

My suggestion for your first day is to take a Vaporetto ride along the entire length of the Grand Canal (and back) just before the sunset. Start the journey around 15 minutes before sunset.

Sailing along the Grand Canal Venice Italy

While sailing the Grand Canal, you will see the sun-setting over Venice, painting its colors across the sky and reflecting onto the waters of the canal. Afterwards, you will see Venice light up as darkness sets in. It is magical!

Take the Vaporetto from Piazzale Roma down to San Zaccaria and back. Since the ticket is valid for one hour from validation, take the No 2 water bus as it does not stop at every boat stop on its journey down the Grand Canal. The No 1 water bus stops at evey landing stage between Piazzale Roma and the Lido.

Press here for an explanation of Vaporetto tickets and passes.

Venice at night
The magical streets of Venice at night / Photo by seth m (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Don’t Skip the Major Tourist Sites – They are Amazing!

When in Venice, you should definitely visit the following major sites:

  • The Grand Canal
  • The Doge’s Palace (book in advance to avoid long queues)
  • St Mark’s Square (but don’t dine there… it is expensive!)
  • St Mark’s Basilica
  • The Bridge of Sighs
  • The Rialto Bridge and the nearby market
  • Saint Marks Bell Tower (Campanile di San Marco) for the best views of Venice!

Press here for more details about the MUST see sites of Venice.

After visiting Venice, you will understand why Monet stayed ten weeks!!

Venice Landscapes - Claude Monet Painting
Claude Monet Painting- Palazzo da Mula in Venice 1908

For more articles about Claude Monet & the beautiful places that inspired him, see the articles below: