Le Grand Canal, 1908 by Claude Monet

Monet visited Venice for the first time in 1908. Staying with a friend of the artist John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), Monet was inspired by the magical effects of the light. It is surprising that Monet had not visited Venice before, as with its unusual combination of water, architecture, and sky it had all the elements Monet often sought in his work. Venice has proved fertile ground for artists stretching back across the centuries, but Monet was not interested in recording the city in a conventional style. He was instead more concerned with the effects of light on the buildings.

In Le Grand Canal, 1908, the architectural details of the Santa Maria della Salute are reduced to outlines. The strong lines of the edges of the building create a vertical and horizontal grid in the right-hand corner. The vertical lines of the painting are emphasized by the gondola poles rearing out of the water and reaching for the sky.

Painted from the center of the canal, Monet has thrust the viewer onto the water with very little land to act as a boundary Santa Maria della Salute seems to be floating on the water, an effect furthered by the water reflecting greens and blues on to the side of the building and the white of the stonework reflecting back down on to the water.