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The Enduring Influence of Venice on Art

  • 4 min read

 

The city of Venice in Italy is a unique and precious repository of art with a distinctive and influential role in the history of visual culture. Whilst Venice is well known for its ancient works, this magical Italian city remains as inspirational as ever. Check out these 5 incredible, Venice-inspired, contemporary artworks...

Venice is an extraordinary city in North Eastern Italy consisting of 118 small islands linked by bridges and boats. The city and its lagoon is listed as a World Heritage City. Venice has been known as the ‘Queen of the Adriatic’, ‘The Floating City’ and the ‘City of Masks’. As well as being “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man” (Luigi Barzini, ‘The New York Times’), it has been an epicentre of artistic achievement.

During the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque, Venice was one of the most important centres of art. Major artists of the Venetian school included Tiziano Vecellio (Titian), Tintoretto, Veronese and Gionvanni Canaletto. By the end of the 15th century, Venice had also become the European capital of printing, being one of the first cities in Italy to have a printing press. Although this ancient city is revered for its Renaissance masterpieces and Byzantine treasures, it is still enthralling artists today.

Succumbing to Venice’s potent allurement, the contemporary artists below have joined the city’s long and impressive cultural history, proving that the floating city remains an enduring influence on art...

Magnus Gjoen, 'Venetian Stag Beetle'

‘Venetian Stag Beetle’ by Magnus Gjoen is inspired by works by Paolo Veneziano that Magnus recently saw in Venice. Venetian painting found its first authoritative voice in Paolo Veneziano, whose signed works can be dated from the 1320s to the 1360s. Veneziano’s art exemplifies the refinement of Italo-Byzantine style. In his earliest dated work, ‘Coronation of the Virgin’, the freedom, freshness and brilliance of colour epitomize 14th Venetian taste.

Magnus has exquisite exquisitely revived the splendid Renaissance imagery for a contemporary audience by meticulously crafting ‘Coronation of the Virgin’ onto a 3D stag beetle base. In his unique style, Magnus has ingeniously shadowed and highlighted the appropriated painting to fit the intricate form of the stag beetle.

Copyright, 'Masquerade'

Urban artist Copyright’s latest limited edition print ‘Masquerade’ features an elegant monochrome female figure clasping an ornate mask adorned with birds and Copyright’s characteristic rose motif. The beautiful mask in this contemporary portrait is unmistakably an emblem of Venice. Masks are a centuries-old tradition of the city. Venetian masks are characterised by their ornate designs featuring bright colours such as red and gold and the use of intricate decorations in the Baroque style.

The mask in Copyright’s portrait is a Columbina (also known as Columbine or Columbino). It is a half mask highly decorated with gold, silver, crystals and feathers, held up to the face by a baton. The mask was popularised by an early actress in the Commedia dell’arte (a form of theatre which began in Italy in the 16th century). It is said it was designed for her because she did not wish to have her beautiful face covered completely.

Peter Blake, 'The Venice Suite'

Fifty years after his first trip to the most magical of Italian cities, founding father of British Pop Art Sir Peter Blake made his first return visit in 2007. “Venice has been an inspiring place for me since my first visit in 1957 on a scholarship. I spend my life collecting images, newspaper cuttings and vintage postcards, which find their way into my work, and Venice has proven to be a treasure trove of material”, revealed Blake.

The ‘Venice Suite’ was inspired by Blake’s 2007 trip for the Biennale. Each work in the portfolio takes a photographic view of Venice from the early 1900s as its starting-point. In his trademark collage style he creates a magical, surreal, fairytale vision of the city. In Blake’s imagination Venice is invaded by penguins and engulfed in iceburgs, it becomes the stage for dance companies and a camp site for scout troops. Blake combines traditional images of the city on the lagoon with visual excerpts from vintage childrens’ books, photographs, postcards, as well as details from works of the old masters. The suite is a wonderful and witty contemporary portrait of a truly fascinating historical city.

Fraser Gillespie, 'Venice'

Venice is undoubtedly one of the most romantic cities in the world. In ‘Venice’, Fraser Gillespie explores the romance and seduction of the beguiling ‘Queen of the Adriatic’. Like Copyright, Gillespie’s portrait of the city depicts beautiful female figures wearing traditional Venetian masks. It also features printed text and typography, alluding to the city’s long history of printing – it was the Aldine Press of Aldus Manutius in Venice that established modern punctuation, the page format and italic type.

The Venetian Carnival is famed for its elaborate masks. The festival, which was made official in the Renaissance, encouraged and licensed pleasure. The carnival festivities were often punctuated by loss of virtue, gambling, theft and especially sex. During the carnival the strict social rules and hierarchy of early Renaissance Venetian society toppled and the anonymity of disguise lowered inhibitions. The entwined figures in this print, with their 18th century wigs and masks, epitomize the seduction of Venice’s infamous carnival.

eBoy, 'Venice'

eBoy’s trademark eCities are inspired by their love of architecture and the challenge of recreating and recombining different urban elements in their unique pixel style. Venice is a fascinating city, in terms of town planning and architecture. It has a rich and diverse architectural style, including Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings. It also remains one of the only cities in the world to be free from cars!

eBoy’s contemporary print 'Venice' imaginatively depicts St Mark’s Square complete with the famous campanile (bell tower), Doge’s palace and gondolas on the Grand Canal. In their characteristic style eBoy have also included giant robots, monsters and space ships in the picture. An engineering masterpiece, Venice combines the past and present like no other place. This unique contemporary work perfectly captures the city’s fascinating dichotomies and even suggests possible future developments.

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