Venetian Views: Canaletto to Stieglitz

Venice has been painted and described many thousands of times, and of all the cities of the word is the easiest to visit without going there. Everyone has been there, and everyone has brought back a collection of photographs.

–Henry James, 1882

This selection of Venetian views from the early eighteenth through the early twentieth century reveals a rich variety of approaches to the portrayal of this fascinating city through the mediums of etching, watercolor, and photography. Seemingly suspended between sea and sky, Venice has long been a "must-see" destination for tourists–now numbering more than twenty million a year– and a magnet for artists seeking to capture the alluring interplay of architecture, light, and water. Although recognizable buildings appear in the backgrounds of sixteenth-century religious paintings, it is not until the eighteenth century and the phenomenon of the Grand Tour–the prerequisite "gap year" spent traveling on the Continent for young British aristocrats–that a market developed for full-fledged wide-angled views or "vedute" of the city itself, either in paintings or in less expensive etchings, which like snapshots, could be preserved in albums. While many artists, including Thomas Moran, continued to focus on the principal monuments, others such as James McNeill Whistler and Alfred Stieglitz preferred to cast their lens on the obscure views offered by Venice's labyrinth of alleys and back canals.