George Loring Brown - On the Grand Canal, Venice
George Loring Brown (1814-1889), American
On the Grand Canal, Venice, 1880
OIL ON CANVAS, MOUNTED ON MASONITE, 11 ½ x 20 inches
Gift of Horace Fairbanks
George Loring Brown's depiction of Venice is one of three portrayals of the subject in the Athenaeum's collection, a substantial holding that illustrates the subject's popularity during the later nineteenth century. Celebrated for his romanticized depictions of Italy during the mid-century, the artist did not adapt as tastes changed in the wake of the Civil War. Despite his outdated aesthetic, Brown's work remained popular, particularly in St. Johnsbury, where he received at least six commissions from various members of the Fairbanks family.
Browns painting looks east along Venice's famed Grand Canal, toward the landmark Renaissance church of Santa Maria della Salute that crowns the composition. The coloring of the painting is significant. Brown has infused the church's white marble with the brilliant blue of the sky, creating the impression that it is an ethereal vision, rather than an earthly one. The dark palette (made darker by the artist's use of unstable medium called bitumen that deteriorates over time) of the shadowy canal below contrasts sharply with the cathedral's transcendence.