FRAME|WORK: The Grand Canal, Venice by Claude Monet

FRAME|WORK is a weekly blog series highlighting an artwork in the Museums’ permanent collection. This week we take a closer look at Claude Monet’s impressionist depictiion of the Grand Canal in Venice, from 1908.

The Grand Canal, Venice

Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926). The Grand Canal, Venice, 1908. Oil on canvas. Gift of Osgood Hooker. 1960.29

By the turn of the 20th century, Claude Monet was thoroughly absorbed with life at his home in Giverny. There he tended to his gardens and explored in his paintings the panoply of rich vegetation, water and the changing light and atmosphere surrounding him.

In the summer of 1908, however, an intriguing invitation arrived from Mary Young Hunter, an American friend of Monet’s second wife, Alice. Mary requested that the Monets come to visit her at the Palazzo Barbaro in Venice. Monet was reluctant to go but finally relented, and he and Alice arrived in Venice on October 1.

His first reactions confirmed his doubts about the trip. He found the city of Venice “too beautiful to be painted” and virtually “unrenderable.” Nonetheless, Monet soon set to work on a group of paintings that expanded his traditional interest in seriality–the practice of painting the same motif at different times of the day. With a heightened degree of systematic observation, Monet created a new approach to his series paintings: recording the same location, from the same perspective, at the same time each day. This structure allowed Monet to concentrate on the sensuous, almost iridescent visual effects produced by the shimmering haze of Venice.

The Grand Canal, Venice is one of six closely related works that show Santa Maria della Salute as it appeared looking out across the Grand Canal from the steps of the Palazzo Barbaro. Although similarly composed and sized, these paintings differ considerably in coloristic qualities–from high-keyed, prismatic division of hues (such as this example) to more unified, hazy harmonies. In all, Monet produced 37 views of Venice between October and December, when he returned to France. Bernheim-Jeune, the painter’s dealer, acquired 28 of these works, which he eventually displayed in the exhibition Claude Monet “Venise” in May and June of 1912.


The Grand Canal, Venice is currently on display in Gallery 19 at the Legion of Honor, so stop by at different times of day or every day at the same time!