His oil painting named 'Venetian Gondola' was made in
1881. It was made about one year after the painter's return from
Algeria. Renoir decided to portray Venice in a way that was a radical
departure from the traditional Venetian vedute.
However, remnants of
tradition and Renoir's own influences can still be seen in the
A gondolier is transporting two ladies across the canal. They are on
their way to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, possibly to survey
the sixteenth-century church by Palladio. An Italian girl sits on the
water's edge, she is looking towards the higher up artist. Turner had earlier captured The Grand Canal whilst John Singer Sargent painted Spirito Santo Saattera and Sketching on the Giudecca.
painting follows a tradition running from Rubens to Watteau of
celebrating beauty, and feminine sensuality. However, Renoir reacted
to more restrained and moderate portrayals of the city's famous
monuments, skylines, and canal. He represented major landmarks in a
much more colorful and abstract way.
The canal is set between the Ca' Foscari palace and the Rialto Bridge which is barely recognizable.
The painter used varied brushstrokes and quick strikes of paint and
used various shades of color. He used new pictorial techniques
learned in Algeria to show nuances in light and shadow.
Pierre Auguste-Renoir was a renowned leader of the impressionist movement.
His controversial painting recalls scenes of the Gondola moving
around the Grand Canal from Manet's 1874 visit to Venice. However,
Renoir used large scaled figures in the background including the
shapely Gondola itself and the panoramic view across the water of the
Dogana, Venetian Customs House and more distant Campanile of San
His work has also been compared with the work of John Singer
Sargent, who had visited a year before Renoir, in 1880. His use of
color is influenced by the colorism of Eugène Delacroix and the
luminosity of Camille Corot. Renoir also admired the realism of
Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet, and his early work resembles
theirs in his use of black as a color. This can be seen in the color
of the Gondola and boats in the background.
The painting demonstrates Renoir's mastery at showing present moments of
delight with a warm and joyful demonstration of color, light, shadow,
and silhouette. His use of darker colors often used by realists is
contrasted with sharp, obscure colors and his use of femininity. The
movement of water and characters are shown in light of the barely
recognizable panoramic view of the city's landmarks. This gives the
observer a feeling of the present situation movement and vibrancy of
the Venetian canals.