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Venice: Reminiscence of Veracruz, Mexico / Thomas Moran

Essay/Description

“Here I am in Venice and in good condition. I arrived here on Saturday night. . . . Since my arrival I have done nothing but wander about the streets & I have done no work as yet. Venice is all, & more, than travellers have reported of it.”1 —Thomas Moran in a letter to Mary Nimmo Moran, 1886

When Thomas Moran visited Venice in 1886, he hardly knew where to begin, so overwhelmed was he by the visual spectacle that is the city of canals. Venice was a popular destination for both American and European artists because of the challenges it afforded them: the compositional stimulation provided by the ships with their brightly colored sails, the charming flat-bottomed boats whose gondoliers skillfully navigated the canals, and the constant play of light between the waterways and the magnificent architecture. One nineteenth-century artist quipped, “every morning in Venice saw the white umbrellas of artists growing up like mushrooms along the canals.”2

Moran soon got busy exploring the city, quickly jotting down sketches in a pocket notebook.3 The artist’s favorite setting was the confluence of the Grand Canal and the Canal Giudecca, which showcased Venetian landmarks such as the Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Campanile, and Santa Maria Salute. Moran featured the location in his oil paintings, as seen here, and in etchings such as The Gate of Venice (14.445).4 Although the sketches provided inspiration for finished works, Moran also relied on his understanding of the painting techniques of the British artist J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851), whose work Moran studied during his 1862 visit to England.5 The opalescent light of Turner’s views of Venice inform not only Moran’s portrayals of the city but also his oil paintings of Mexico, such as his 1885 Venetian Seaport, Veracruz (01.1109), which was, in fact, created before he had even visited Venice!6

—Sandra Pauly, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Moran Collection Research, 2021

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1 Moran in Bassford and Fryxell, Home-thoughts, from afar, 77.
2 American painter Charles Caryl Coleman (1840–1928) in a letter to artist Elihu Vedder (1836–1923), quoted in Lovell, Venice, 15.
3 There are fourteen sketches in the notebook (18.17.1-.14). In 1890 Moran returned with his wife, Mary Nimmo Moran (1842–1899), and he created several watercolors and pastels, including Venice (02.765), Venice from Malamocco (02.833), Chioggia (13.597), Murano (02.766), and Picture of Sails from Chioggia (02.832). Gilcrease also owns several sketches created in 1890: the graphite drawings Venice (13.838), San Giorgio Maggiore (13.839), and San Giorgio Maggiore from the Giudecca (13.832); and a pen and ink sketch, Moonlight Fete in Venice (13.587) from either 1886 or 1890.
4 Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 251.
5 Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 257–59.
6 Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 232–38. Moran made his first trip to Mexico in 1883 and, as was frequently the case, created finished oil paintings, such as Venetian Seaport, Veracruz (01.1109), later. The painting, however, was completed before Moran visited Venice for the first time in 1886.

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Title(s): 
Venice: Reminiscence of Veracruz, Mexico; Venice: Reminiscence of Vera Cruz, Mexico
Creator(s): 
Thomas Moran (Artist)
Culture: 
American
Date: 
1886
Period: 
Hudson River School
Materials/Techniques: 
oil on canvas
Classification: 
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
01.2447
Previous Number(s): 
1992; 0126.2447; none; 32830
Department: 
Signed by hand in paint with colophon, "T.Moran 1886" in lower left on recto; Inscribed on an old label affixed to the stretcher, ""Reminiscence of Vera Cruz, Mexico" on verso.
Not On View

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