Boudin made the first of his three trips to Venice in 1892, and produced a large number of paintings and drawings of its canals and surrounding buildings. In the summer of 1895 he returned to Venice for the last time with the landscapist Henri Harpignies and another fellow painter. Staying there for about two months, and fascinated by the quality of light, the water and the architecture of the city, he created a remarkable body of work characterised by a luminous palette and clear, precise brushwork that is rarely found in his French paintings. By the time he first travelled to Venice, he was already familiar with its scenery from the eighteenth-century views by Guardi, of which Boudin made copies during his visits to the Louvre in the 1860s.
Peter C. Sutton wrote of Boudin’s Venetian paintings: ‘these sparkling images of the ancient city and its monuments usually adopt a distant point of view in the tradition of Canaletto and Guardi, but are executed with a more animated touch that enlivens the sea and sky. Boudin’s paintings of Venice apparently were well received; at the posthumous sale of the contents of his atelier in 1899, a Venetian painting fetched the highest price’ (P. C. Sutton, Boudin, Impressionist Marine Paintings (exhibition catalogue), Peabody Museum of Salem, 1991, p. 78). Although in many of his Venetian paintings Boudin shared the topographical concerns of Canaletto, depicting the city’s buildings seen frontally, in the present work he shifted his focus to the Grand Canal, presenting a more Impressionistic view of the water and the sky. Whilst paying careful attention to depicting the sky in a combination of bright blue and misty grey, and rendering the water in lively short brushstrokes with boats reflecting on its surface, Boudin at the same time paints an image of a busy modern town, its canal and banks filled with gondolas and workers going about their daily activities.
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