Title:View of VeniceArtist:Thomas Moran Date:1902Creation Place:North America, United StatesCredit Line:Gift of Robert Crane WintonAccession Number:2010.92
In 1886, Thomas Moran auctioned off the unsold works in his studio in preparation for a trip to Europe. On May 3rd of that year, he wrote to his wife, Mary, "Venice is all, and more, than travelers have reported of it. It is wonderful. I shall make no attempt at description but will tell you when I get back." His understanding of Venice was shaped in large part by his prior knowledge of such great wellsprings of Romanticism as Turner's paintings and watercolors and Ruskin's Stones of Venice. Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage expresses in words much of the sentiment found in Moran's watercolor:
I loved her from my boyhood; she to me
Was a fairy city of the heart,
Rising like water columns from the sea,
Of joy the sojourn, and of wealth the mart;
And Otway, Radcliffe, Schiller, Shakespeare's art,
Had stamp'd her image in me, and even so,
Although I found her thus, we did not part;
Perchance even dearer in her day of woe,
Than when she was a boast, a marvel, and a show.
As Nancy Anderson has eloquently set forth, Moran's Venetian scenes tapped into a nostalgic longing for a pre-industrial world. Moran himself was so swept up in such sentiment that on his second visit to Venice, he bought poet Robert Browning's gondola and had it shipped home to East Hampton, Long Island. He painted View of Venice in America, as he did most of his Venetian views. As here, they are typically fantasy scenes of a floating dream world anchored by prominent landmarks, such at the Campanile and the Doge's Palace. He elaborates the foreground with a repoussoir, here a cluster of old-fashioned boats that were still the norm in Venice but a matter of nostalgia in the increasingly industrialized waters of America's Atlantic seaboard.