Are you familiar with the lesser known but gorgeous Claude Monet Paintings of Venice?
The stunning Claude Monet Venice paintings were an instant success when he exhibited them in Paris for the first time. They sold like hot cakes! This totally surprised Monet as he really didn’t think that these paintings were anything special.
In February 2019, one of Monet’s Venice paintings 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!!) I wonder what Monet would think of that!!
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 for the first and only time. 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 him to make the trip. The Monets agreed and stayed in the Barbaro Palace on the Grand Canal.
Alice Monet was overjoyed as Claude was usually reluctant to leave their house in Giverny, where Monet was obsessively painting his beloved water lilies.
Claude Monet Falls in Love with Venice
When Monet left Giverny for Venice in the fall of 1908, he did not plan to paint Venice. In fact, he was hesitant to paint this city that so many others had already immortalized on their canvases. The plan was to have a ‘non-working holiday’ with his wife Alice. However, Claude Monet sent his painting materials to Venice ahead of his visit…. just in case!
Once they arrived in Venice, Monet was overwhelmed with the beauty of this city. His first words were:
“It is too beautiful to be painted! It is untranslatable!”
So Much for a Non-Working Holiday! Monet Obsessively Paints Venice!!
Monet being Monet, couldn’t resist the challenge and as soon as the weather permitted, he started painting! He woke up early to watch Venice at sunrise and continued to paint until the sunset. Monet was frantically painting, starting a new canvas every day.
Alice Monet wrote 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”.
Claude 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 disliked his unfinished paintings. Actually Claude Monet thought that his Venice painting were quite ugly.
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 paintings. 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!
Signac’s Letter to Monet After Viewing the Exhibition
The young emerging artist, Paul Signac wrote the following words to Claude Monet after viewing the 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”
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Which museums are lucky enough to own a Claude Monet Venice Painting:
- Different versions of Twilight, Venice are owned by the Artizon Museum in Tokyo, Japan, Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo and National Museum Wales, Cardiff
- Le Grand Canal is located at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Another similar version of this scene is owned by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
- San Giorgio Maggiore painting can be located at Indianapolis Museum of Art. Another similar version is owned by the Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales
- The Doge’s Palace is on display at the Brooklyn Museum
- The Doge’s Palace Seen from San Giorgio Maggiore is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Other versions of this scene are located at the Kunsthaus in Zurich and the R. Guggenheim Museum in New York
- The Rio della Salute is located at Pola Museum of Art in Japan; and
- Gondola in Venice is owned by Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, Nantes, France
Traveling to Venice in the Footsteps of Monet’s Venice Paintings
Claude Monet is only one of millions of people who fell in love with beautiful Venice. It is such a special city. There is no where in the world like it! It is beautiful, magical and timeless.
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!
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 accommodation 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 so 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 wonderful. Try to bargain down the price! The lower the tourist season, the better the price!!
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 neighboring islands of Burano & Murano. These islands are often overlooked and are breathtakingly beautiful. Press here for details.
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.
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 every landing stage between Piazzale Roma and the Lido.
Press here for an explanation of Vaporetto tickets and passes.
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!
Check out these wonderful VIATOR tours for the top sights in Venice, Italy
After visiting Venice, you will understand why Monet stayed ten weeks!!
For more articles about Claude Monet & the beautiful places that inspired him, see the articles below: