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The ageless appeal of Venice seen through old drawings

by | Aug 2, 2021 | Maritime Art, Culture and History

Why has Venice fascinated so many artists through the centuries? The German art historian Gustav Pauli gave a straightforward answer in his 1904 book Venice: “Venice had always been one of the most picturesque cities of the world. What could have equalled in fantastic splendour the church of St. Mark, the Doges’ Palce, and their surroundings? — And again was it possible to imagine more delightful street-views, than were offered at every step by the narrow network of canals and streets?”

The beauty of Venice is such that it shines through even in old drawings done in pencil, charcoal, ink or crayon. Here are some examples:

Venice, no date
Marie-Joseph Iwill (pseudonym of Marie-Joseph Léon Clave, French, 1850–1923)
Crayon and chalk on paper
Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Ascension Day Festival at Venice, 1765/1766
Canaletto (Venetian, 1697–1768)
Pen and brown ink with gray wash over traces of graphite, tip of the brush with black wash, heightened with a few touches of white gouache (laid on thick eighteenth-century paper)
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

The Island of San Clemente, no date
Francesco Guardi (Venetian, 1712–1793)
Giacomo Guardi (Venetian, 1764–1835)
Pen and brown ink with brown wash over graphite on laid paper
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

A Canal at Venice, 1921
Donald Shaw MacLaughlan (American, 1876–1938)
Charcoal and chalk on paper
Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gezicht in Venetië (Scene in Venice), 1870–1923
Willem Witsen (Dutch, 1860–1923)
Pencil on paper
Courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Houses with blinds over the balconies on the Grand Canal in Venice, 1914
Willem Witsen (Dutch, 1860–1923)
Pencil on paper
Courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Venice Fishing Boats, c. 1900
George Elbert Burr (American, 1859–1939)
Pencil on paper
Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Evening, San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, c. 1900–1920
Eugène Vail (French-American, 1857–1934)
Charcoal on wove paper
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Santi Giovanni e Paolo, (1750–1759)
Francesco Guardi (Italian, 1712–1793)
Black chalk underdrawing, brown ink, brown wash, on four pieces of paper joined together
Courtesy of the Google Art Project

Gezicht op Venetië (View of Venice), 1895
Marius Bauer (Dutch, 1867–1932)
Chalk
Courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

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