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Turner and Venice at Tate Britain

There are some surprising pictures including an SE1 view at Tate Britain's Turner and Venice exhibition.

Turner Venice
Venice: the Dogana and San Giorgio Maggiore, 1834 – oil on canvas (National Gallery of Art, Washington)


One is a view by Turner looking downstream from Vauxhall with familiar Lambeth Palace to the right and Somerset House peeping above Westminster Bridge. This was a period when artists were discovering the floating city and showing the exciting Venetian vistas at London's summer exhibitions.

Some compared Venice with London. Today we still have St Paul's Cathedral as the great landmark seen from Bankside. Before Turner set off for Venice another artist turned Ludgate Hill into a canal with a landing stage in front of St Paul's.

These paintings feature in the exhibition's introduction. Beyond are Turner's Venetian holiday paintings including views of his hotel bedroom. He visited Venice in 1819 and 1840 and the Tate is showing around 55 oil paintings and over a 100 watercolours.

Some have never been seen before and others have been borrowed from New York and Toledo. There are numerous views of St Mark's Square and the Bridge of Sighs. A huge contemporary map confirms how much of the city remains unchanged.

Turner Venice
Keelmen heaving in Coals by Moonlight, 1835 – oil on canvas (National Gallery of Art, Washington)


Another unexpected view is Keelmen heaving Coals by Moonlight showing coal ships in Newcastle being loaded at night for the voyage to London. This hangs alongside Venice: Dogana and San Giorgio Maggiore. One begins to understand why two of Turner's Portsmouth paintings were long thought to be of Venice.

At the very end there is a series of views of the Lagoon's changing light glowing in the gallery's careful artificial light.

The Tate is encouraging school parties to use the Tate to Tate ferry as a workshop when visiting the exhibition. On the way back to Bankside Pier it is possible to compare that Turner view from the beach opposite Tate Britain.

• Turner and Venice at Tate Britain is open daily 10am-5.40pm; admission 8.50 (conc 6).

• On Saturday 1 November many special activities are on offer as part of the A Day In Venice promotion sponsored by Barclays.

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