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“The Grand Canal, Venice” by J. M. W. Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner - The Grand Canal, Venice

“The Grand Canal, Venice” by J. M. W. Turner

“The Grand Canal, Venice” by J. M. W. Turner was painted on his second visit to Venice, probably in 1833. Turner created a series of views of the city that displayed his interest in capturing a scene through the lens of his Romantic sensibility. Turner was the master in portraying nature with dramatic light and color that permeates most of his paintings. This painting is renowned for the way the foundations of the palaces of Venice merge into the waters of the canal through subtle reflections. This painting was shown in 1835 at the Royal Academy, where it was well-received as one of his “most agreeable works.”

Joseph Mallord William Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner, later more commonly called J. M. W. Turner, entered the Royal Academy of Art in 1789, aged 14, and his first watercolor was accepted for the Royal Academy summer exhibition of 1790 when Turner was 15. From a young art student trained in executing topographical watercolors, he became one of the most original artists of his time. Turner was a Romantic painter, printmaker, and watercolorist, today known for his vivid coloration, imaginative landscapes, and turbulent marine paintings. As a private, eccentric, and reclusive figure, Turner was controversial throughout his career. He left over 2,000 paintings and 19,000 drawings and sketches.

Grand Canal of Venice

The Grand Canal is a channel of water that divides Venice, Italy, and forms one of the significant water-traffic corridors for the city. One end of the canal leads into the lagoon near the railway station, and the other end leads into the basin at San Marco. In between the two ends, it makes a large S shape through the central districts of Venice. It is 3.8 km (2.4 mi) long and 30 to 90 m (98 to 295 ft) wide, with an average depth of 5 meters (16 feet).

The banks of the Grand Canal are lined with nearly 170 buildings, most of which date from the 13th to the 18th century, which represent the wealth and architecture created by the Republic of Venice during its height of power. Venetian families competed to show off their wealth with palazzos facing the Grand Canal., also the churches along the canal include many famous basilicas. Most of the palazzos emerge from water without pavement. Because most of the city’s traffic goes along the Canal rather than across it, only one bridge crossed the canal until the 19th century, the Rialto Bridge.

Explore Joseph Mallord William Turner


  • Does this painting capture the spirit of Venice?
  • How does a Turner compare to a Canaletto in depicting Venice?
  • Do you prefer Turner’s or Canaletto’s depictions of Venice?
  • Does Turner capture the grandeur of Venice in this impressive light and color painting?

The Grand Canal, Venice

  • Title:               The Grand Canal, Venice
  • Alternative:    Venice, from the Porch of Madonna della Salute
  • Artist:             J. M. W. Turner
  • Date:              1835
  • Medium:        Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:  36 x 48 1/8 in. (91.4 x 122.2 cm)
  • Museum:       Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

Joseph Mallord William Turner

J. M. W. Turner Quotes


“To select, combine, and concentrate that which is beautiful in nature and admirable in art is as much the business of the landscape painter in his line as in the other departments of art.”


“I have no secret but hard work. This is a secret that many never learn, and they don’t succeed because they don’t learn it. Labor is the genius that changes the world from ugliness to beauty and the great curse to a great blessing.”


“I know of no genius but the genius of hard work.”


“I don’t paint so that people will understand me; I paint to show what a particular scene looks like.”


“It is necessary to mark the greater from, the lesser truth: namely, the larger and more liberal idea of nature from the comparatively narrow and confined; namely that which addresses itself to the imagination from that which is solely addressed to the eye.”


“It is only when we are no longer fearful that we begin to create.”


“If I could find anything blacker than black I’d use it.”


There’s a sketch at every turn.


“I did not paint… to be understood. I wished to show what such a scene was like.”


“Painting can never show her nose in company with architecture but to have it snubbed.”


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“I know of no genius but the genius of hard work.”
– J. M. W. Turner


Photo Credit: 1) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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