Sunday, 27 February 2011

Places to paint: Riva degli Schiavoni

The Riva degli Schiavoni in Venice is a place which has proved popular over the years with various artists who have painted Venice - from Canaletto to Francesco Guardi to John Singer Sargent and more contemporary painters such as Ken Howard.

For one thing it provides a distant view of the church of Santa Maria della Salute.  It also has a long curve which provides an interesting perspective.

I've painted on the Riva degli Schiavoni but never portrayed it and I thought it might be inteersting to see how different artists have approached this task.

The first painting below - of the Doges Palace and the waterfront which is the Riva degli Schiavoni - appears to have been painted while sat in a boat in the Bacino of San Marco.  JMW Turner appears to have painted a number of his studies in this way given the perspectives he gets on places in Venice.  In 1840, the Riva is obviously a very busy place.

This is a late painting by Turner.  This is a link to Turner's 1840 sketchbook of Venice - Venice and Botzen Sketchbook [Finberg CCCXIII - which can be found online at Tate Britain.  From this you can see that most of his studies are done in pencil and are monochrome.  So was this study done in venice or constructed from his sketchbook wehn he got home?
Venice: The Doge's Palace and the Riva degli Schiavoni, from the Bacino  1840 JMW Turner (1755-1851)
watercolour on paper

How many times do you put off painting landscapes because the weather is grey?  John Singer Sargent is, in my opinion, a master of the coloured grey and well worth studying if you want to find out how to make a dull subject more interesting.  When you've looked at a few of his paintings of landscapes and city scapes in grey weather, I find I start to see the colour 'grey' in a totally different light!

This is a view of the Riva degli Schiavoni which is known as Venice in Grey Weather - but grey does not mean dull in this painting.

Venice in Grey Weather (1880) by John Singer Sargent
oil on canvas
Note how this painting delivers a masterly blend of:
  • complementary colours - subdued mauve greys offset by pale yellow ochre
  • a mix of colours (pinks, blues ochres) in the foreground creating interest in the large area of pavement on the Riva degli Schiavoni in Venice
Cafe on the Riva degli Schiavoni (1880-82) by John Singer Sargent
watercolour on paper
In this painting Sargent is very obviously sat at a table in front of one of the hotels or cafes (round about where the Danieli is located) painting the view looking west - in the evening - towards Santa Maria della Salute.  This one is certainly painted plein air, in situ.  I suspect the time of day might account for the people thinning out - or maybe Sargent just chose to paint very few of those who were passing?

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot also painted the Riva.  Corot is admired as a landscape painter but his landscapes are often rural and this painting which includes landmark architecture appears to me to be constructed from different studies in the studio.  I say this because the proportions and perspective of this view - right outside the Doge's Palace at the western end of the Riva - look "off" to me.

Venice, the Piazetta - View from the riva degli Schiavoni by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

James McNeil Whistler did a set of etchings of Venice after he had to leave London following his little 'run-in' with John Ruskin. 

The Riva, No. 1, 1879–80 Etching and drypoint by J M Whistler
This one is of the Riva.  It's suggested that the rooftops of the campanile of the basilica of San Marco are on the right.  In which case this etching was drawn plein air and transposed when printed.  It appears as if this was drawn from a window high up in one of the buildings adjacent to the Riva and the foreground area has been flattened in order to fir the format, include the foregorund interest and yet allow the recession of the buildings in the background

Riva degli Shiavoni

The Riva degli Schiavoni is a wide waterfront promenade and landing stage in Venice which borders the Basin of San Marco.  It starts outside the Doges Palace and continues eastwards towards the Arsenal.

It was constructed in the ninth century after the area was drained and silt was dredged from the bed of the Grand Canal.  The original width would have much more like that at its western end. In 1342 it was paved using birck.  Subsequently, it was enlarged in the last years of the Republic with work being completed in 1782. The Ponte della Paglia, which marks the beginning of Riva and the Bridge of the Ca 'di Dio marks the other end.

Its name relates to the Slav merchants who used to land meat and fish on the various wharves along its length. Waterbuses, private water taxis, gondolas and working boats continue to tie up along its length today.  It's also now home to some of the more expensive hotels in  Venice such as the Danieli

Riva degli Shiavoni - from Google Maps
The idea that one cannot paint subjects like Venice because they have been done before is frankly ridiculous.

There are no new subjects, only new languages. It is how you say it that matters, just as much as what you say.

Canaletto, Corot, Boudin, Sickert, Bonnington, Monet, Renoir all painted Venice, to name but a few. Why? Because it is the most beautiful, unique and inspirational place in the world. As long as there are painters there will be paintings of Venice.
Ken Howard

    Have you painted the Riva degli Schiavoni?


    Shelby Dillon said...

    This is fantastic! I really appreciate the ideas. I'm going to Venice in about a month and having this info will be awesome!

    Katherine Tyrrell said...

    Shelby - you might like to take a look at my record of my visit to Vence in 2005 - when I recorded quite a bit of stuff about locations and good places to paint


    Katherine Kean said...

    I'm sorry to say that I haven't painted the Riva degli Schiavoni, but if I ever do get to Venice I hope I get to paint from a boat a la Turner.

    I do love to paint grey, stormy and foggy weather! Here in Southern California, I very often am interrupted by the sun.

    Monica Quintavalle said...

    I see Riva Degli Schiavoni every days, because I work in Venice. Is a good idea to painting this place, the magic light in the morning or the soft colours in the evening.In this momentis a vortex of colours because we are in hart of Carnival, ciao!!!!

    Katherine Tyrrell said...

    Thanks Monica - of course - Carnival! I've never been at Carnival time but it must be wonderful!

    Bridget Hunter said...

    Thankyou for this - Sargent's watercolour sketches are breathtaking. I love them.

    Bridget Hunter said...

    Thankyou for these. Sargent's watercolour sketches are breathtaking.


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