The Grand Canal, which primarily comprises the foreground, has varied blues and greens; a scattering of ships line the canal on both ends; the canal, which sharply recedes into space, culminates in a small but luminous sunset; saturated oranges radiate from around the setting sun and then suffuse into the sky, which has various shades of cool blues and pinks; there is also some impasto in the center of the composition in the sky, where Moran has built up a lot of white; the domes of Santa Maria della Salute can be seen on the right bank of the canal and, although inaccurate in terms of its actual location, the Campanile of St. Marks can be seen on the left bank.

Venice: Grand Canal at Sunset

Thomas Moran


Thomas Moran is perhaps best known for his paintings of the American West, but at the age of forty nine he became captivated by the Italian city of Venice, painting it more than any other subject during the last 35 years of his long career. Moran first visited Venice in 1886, but had already experienced the city through the literary and artistic works of Lord Byron, J. M. W. Turner, and John Ruskin. In a letter of 1888, Moran wrote, “Venice is an inexhaustible mine of pictorial treasures for the artist and of dreamy remembrance to those who have been fortunate enough to visit it.” In this dramatic work, Moran depicts the Grand Canal at sunset and has manipulated the composition so that two of Venice’s most prominent landmarks—the Campanile of St. Mark’s Basilica and the domes of Santa Maria della Salute—can be seen in a single view.