The city of Venice, Italy is one with extensive and rich history when it comes to art and painting. Historians debate the prominence of Venice and compare it to that of Rome, noting that it is arguably one of the most important centers of the Italian Renaissance that is equal to cities like Florence and Rome in terms of the city’s reputation and prestige.
For centuries, artists from numerous movements and painting styles have created works depicting this highly-esteemed city. It’s architecture and the many structures of Venice set the city apart from nearly any other in Italy, as well as Europe as a whole.
We’ve compiled this article on the most famous paintings of Venice in history while also including important background information on the artists themselves, as well as the motives they had in creating these works.
Famous Paintings of Venice
1. Le Grand Canal – Claude Monet
Claude Monet is viewed as the most pivotal figure from the Impressionist movement that began in France during the 19th century and has since remained one of the most celebrated artists of all time.
Many of his works are considered to be masterpieces that display the most fundamental characteristics of Impressionist painting, especially the works he did portraying different cities and landscapes.
One of Monet’s most well-known cityscape paintings is titled Le Grand Canal and was completed in 1908 at the end of a span of time when the artist had created numerous cityscape and landscape paintings according to the Impressionist style.
This painting is one of the most iconic depictions of the Grand Canal in Venice, which is an important water corridor that connects to the other waterways in the city.
Venice is widely famous for the water corridors within the city and the significance of these travel and shipping pathways was especially essential to life during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
The painting depicts the view from the popular Palazzo Barbaro and it is known that Monet created multiple paintings of this exact angle and composition.
2. The Grand Canal of Venice (Blue Venice) – Édouard Manet
Another prominent depiction of Venice’s Grand Canal was done by Édouard Manet, who was also a significant member of the Impressionist movement.
Manet spent a great deal of time in the city of Venice during the late 19th century when its Grand Canal was famously used for travel from one part of the metropolis to the other.
Manet created one of the most well-known paintings of this waterway which features a traghetto, which is a small ferry boat that’s rowed by an oarsman. The painting is known as The Grand Canal of Venice (Blue Venice) and was completed in 1875.
Manet’s depiction of the Grand Canal is more of a portrayal of the famous traghetti instead of a painting that focuses on the greater view of the waterway.
This painting and the image that it depicts is one that is more or less a commonly-held theme for the city and Italy as these traghetti ferry boats are a distinct mode of travel that is only used in Venice. Manet was famous for his ability to create a sense of activity within his paintings and this is a perfect example of his talent.
3. Gondola in Venice – Claude Monet
Monet is perhaps the most well-known artist in history who produced numerous works portraying parts of the city of Venice throughout his career.
He is known to have traveled to the city multiple times throughout his life and Monet spent a considerable amount of time in Venice during the early 20th century near the end of his career. It was at this time that he also created one of his masterful works that would later be one of the most famous paintings of Venice in history.
The painting is titled Gondola in Venice and was finished in 1908 in the same year that the artist painted his other work which focused on the Grand Canal itself.
This painting depicts the other famous travel method used in the city that involves a private ferry canoe known as a gondola. The gondola is often associated with romance and leisure and is a popular tourist attraction in modern-day Venice.
This painting does not include the passengers on board the gondola, or even the oarsman. Instead, Monet produces a classic Impressionist work that presents the viewer with a view of the bow of the canoe from a low position near the water’s surface.
The painting is dominated by dark tones that seem to symbolize what many critics believe must have been an overwhelming sense of loneliness.
4. San Zaccaria Altarpiece – Giovanni Bellini
Giovanni Bellini was a Venice-born artist who is known to have created a number of artworks associated with the city, as well as the prominent leaders who inhabited it during the early years of the Italian Renaissance.
Bellini is the most famous artist from his family, according to historians and scholars today, but his brother, Gentile, was considered to be much more famous during their lifetime.
One of Bellini’s most widely-celebrated paintings is known as San Zaccaria Altarpiece. This 1505 work is often viewed as one of the more meaningful masterpieces from the early Renaissance era as it was done just a few decades before other prominent figures like Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael would truly become prominently-featured in this movement.
The painting is also known as Madonna Enthroned with Child and Saints and it depicts a conversation between the Madonna, or Mary, and Saint Peter, as well as three other prominent saints who had lived in the years shortly-prior to this painting.
5. Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice – Paul Signac
Paul Signac was a French artist who lived and worked during the late 19th century when the Impressionist movement had begun to run its course and artists were seeking other avenues to follow after.
Signac is one of the more well-known painters who worked specifically on cityscape works, as well as landscapes.
Signac created one of his most well-known paintings in 1905 after spending time in Venice and other parts of Italy.
The painting is titled Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice and features a view of the Santa Maria della Salute, as well as the Dogana da Mar, which are two of Venice’s most prominent landmarks.
He was one of the most famous Pointillism artists and this painting was an incredible representation of this method of creating artwork using paint.
6. The Feast in the House of Levi – Paolo Veronese
Paolo Veronese is an artist who was born in Venice and lived most of his life in the city during the middle of the Italian Renaissance. He is often compared to the most prominent members of the Renaissance movement like Da Vinci or Michelangelo because of his paintings which depict religious figures and scenes from the Christian New Testament.
One of Veronese’s most highly-celebrated works is known as The Feast in the House of Levi and was completed in 1573, which was a time when other artists had begun striving to paint scenes from Biblical stories in order to gain notoriety.
This painting depicts a lively scene depicting Christ and his followers, but it was actually seen as a highly controversial work at the time it was first exhibited.
Veronese was called before a tribunal and faced serious charges involving heresy for his depiction of certain figures in the painting. The Feast in the House of Levi – Paolo Veronese
7. San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk – Claude Monet
The next work on our list of the most famous paintings of Venice is arguably the most famous masterpiece done by Claude Monet. According to various scholars, historians and critics, many view this particular painting as a near-perfect example of the Impressionist style that would become more popular after his death.
The painting is titled San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk and was completed around 1912. It is a beautiful depiction of the prominent structure, San Giorgia Maggiore, but the overall sunset sky is the focus of the painting and the buildings are presented as silhouettes against the setting sun.
Monet actually created more than one version of this painting and it is an image that forms a greater series in which solely devoted to presenting the San Giorgia Maggiore in different views and different times of day.
8. The Grand Canal and the Church of the Salute – Canaletto
Giovanni Antonio Canal is another Venice-born artist who is known to have produced a number of works depicting various cityscapes throughout Italy and Europe.
The painter is more commonly known as Canaletto and is typically considered to be the greatest cityscape artist of all time with his incredibly-realistic portrayal of the world’s most prominent cities and structures or landmarks.
Canaletto is known to have painted a large number of works depicting various parts of his home-city, but few were as famous as one titled The Grand Canal and the Church of the Salute. Finished in 1740, this painting presents the viewer with a perspective of the building called the Santa Maria della Salute, which is usually referred to as the Salute.
The painting also includes Canaletto’s characteristic portrayal of a vast, sweeping cityscape that included a far-reaching background that made the painting’s image seem more realistic than others.
9. Venice, from the Porch of Madonna della Salute – J. M. W. Turner
Joseph Mallord William Turner is often viewed as one of the more famous English artists who commonly produced works portraying cities and landscapes throughout Europe or other parts of the world.
He is viewed as one of the most celebrated artists from the Romanticism era and many of his works are considered masterful portrayals of the particular cityscape or landscape.
In 1835, Turner finished a painting that depicts a well-known section of Venice that’s part of the Grand Canal. His painting presents the viewer with a perspective of the canal from the porch or the outside steps of the Madonna della Salute. I
It was another one of Turner’s prestigious maritime paintings and was done after the artist visited the famous city just a few years prior.
10. Piazza San Marco with the Basilica – Canaletto
Another one of Canaletto’s paintings is one that is also worthy of being included among our list of the most famous paintings of Venice. It’s widely viewed as a masterpiece among other cityscape paintings and depicts the Piazza San Marco, which was a central location in the city of Venice.
The painting is titled Piazza San Marco with the Basilica and is believed to have been completed sometime in the late 1720s.
This painting is also highly-realistic, but is one of the few works done by Canaletto in which the artist made small alterations that were not congruent with the real appearance featured in his work.