The nostalgia and melancholy that wraps itself around Venice today, as it has for centuries, was a magnet for Morrice's particular sensibility, just as it was for artists before and after him. His generation was enamoured of the city and artists and writers flocked there. Morrice's numerous paintings of the piazzas, the canals, the churches and the campanile, at all times of the day and seasons of the year, attest to the fact that he succumbed to its eternal allure and was inspired by its unique charm and enduring fascination.
This fine canvas of a late afternoon scene on a cloudy day is redolent of everything that Venice imprints on its visitors: the arabian-style pillar in front of the Danieli Hotel, the gondolas bobbing alongside the pier, the shimmer of reflections from the out islands and the distant buildings, the sun giving the clouds an early pinkish glow that will deepen and intensify with sunset, and the pedestrians promenading along the canal. Everything is luxurious, sweet, calm, mysterious, and peaceful.
Morrice may have been staying at the Danieli, but in any case his favourite spot was the Caffe Orientale beside it; a sketch book of 1904 is filled with subjects close to the nearby Doges' Palace and the surrounding area. With allowances for some artistic licence, Morrice has portrayed, approximately, the view from the Riva degli Schiavoni out across the lagoon. However, the background elements are aesthetic rather than based on actual buildings or other geographic features of the city. The small 1904 pochade, done on the spot and now in the Thomson Collection, is not totally realistic either, although this canvas, done a little later in 1904-5, goes even further with compositional additions, such as the strip of green island. The initial view is toward the Giudecca with the Fondamente Zitelle visible on the right of the painting; the rest of the background provides not inappropriate elements, but they did not exist then or now, except in Morrice's imagination. This painting is close to Venice, Looking out over the Lagoon in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and to Church of San Pietro di Castello in the collection of Power Corporation.
We are indebted to Lucie Dorais for assistance in the preparation of this note.
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