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SGS Artists in Venice

Yr12 Art student, Daniel Pearce, shares his account of the Venice trip

Venice 2017 – An Art & Design Study Trip

Upon arrival in Venice, I was struck by both the architecture and vivacity of the city. Constructed upon wooden platforms, Venice is a city with two identities; it is characterised both by hidden waterways, alcoves and passageways, as well as the vibrant Grand Canal, towering cathedrals and expansive squares. St Mark’s Square, our initial destination and the true heart of Venice, formed an excellent example of the latter. Adjacent to the square is the Basilica di San Marco, a breath-taking structure embellished with golden mosaics and celebrating the trading history of Venetian people; a quick visit allowed us to explore the magnificent architectural structures within and masterpieces created by Italian artists Titian, one of my personal favourites, and Tintoretto. Before returning to the hotel we were treated to a panoramic view of the Grand Canal and Venetian rooftops from the top of a former palace; this offered a radically different perspective of Venice and allowed for some incredible photography.

The trip to Venice truly began on the second day, with an early start to visit Ca’ Pesaro; this is a Baroque marble palace based on the Grand Canal and home to a wide range of art. Fabulous sculpture, weaponry and both representational and abstract paintings encompassing a broad range of periods and artistic movements all jostled for our attention. Highlights included “The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin and various oil paintings including “Urban Landscape”, by Mario Sironi, and “Flying Clouds”, featuring a beautiful recreation of a dynamic sky. Since the museum was situated on the Grand Canal, I had the opportunity to sit down after exploring the artwork, to complete some observational drawing and work on a new watercolour painting; such periods of observational sketching on the trip provided opportunity to connect with the venetian atmosphere and develop some high quality work for our A-level studies.

The Frari was the second church we visited; it has the status of a minor basilica and, in my opinion, is even more impressive than the gold-covered ceilings of Basilica di San Marco. Whilst the outside of The Frari is styled in a somewhat simplistic Venetian gothic design, featuring a multitude of bricks, it is the contents of the structure that inspire awe. Featuring work by a variety of artists, the Frari is composed of a patchwork of masterpieces; as a result, one can become utterly absorbed in the magnitude and wealth of artistic design and structure present. The Frari is also the resting place of the great Italian artist Titian, the most important member of the 16th Century Venetian school of painting. Tintoretto was the artist responsible for producing the intricately painted ceilings of Scuola di San Rocco, our next visit. The richness and vivacity of colour used to depict the scenes within Scuola di San Rocco creates a surreal atmosphere, however it is the strong composition demonstrated within Sala Grande that truly grabs the attention; Tintoretto used extensive dynamism within his work, and this was partially created through a strong use of chiaroscuro. After lunch we visited an exhibition, “The Genius of Leonardo da Vinci”, where we experienced a variety of da Vinci’s inventions first hand, and were able to interact with the various mechanisms.

A visit to the Peggy Guggenheim museum was planned for the afternoon; consisting of a variety of surrealist paintings and sculpture, Peggy Guggenheim’s personal collection is situated in a museum right on the Grand Canal. I was particularly interested in work by Constantin Brancusi, Wassily Kandinsky and Picasso, with one of my favourite paintings being “Empire of Light” by Rene Magritte. Like Ca’ Pesaro, The Peggy Guggenheim had a large, and arguably much more impressive balcony area leading onto the Grand Canal. From here we were treated to the classic Venetian scene; the Grand Canal was host to all manner of watercraft, from Gondola to Vaporetto, and awash with colour and life. This formed yet another perfect sketching opportunity. A Gondola ride concluded the day, providing another perspective of the canals of Venice and allowing us to really connect with city life on the water.

We began the third day with a visit to the Jewish Ghetto, the oldest of its type in Europe; this was an area completely separated from the rest of Venice by gates, previously locked during curfews, and canals. There is a noticeably different design compared to the rest of Venice; Synagogues are deposited about the ghetto, and the buildings are built upwards to several stories, accommodating the huge volume of people in a rather small area. Following a boat transfer to the Island of Murano, famous worldwide for master glass-making, we visited a glass-making factory to watch the artists produce glasswork in the furnace - an intricate and highly skilled process.

I then ate a crab, whole – eyes, pincers, shell – the lot (a local delicacy).

Burano, the next destination on our day of Island-hopping, provided opportunity for serious photography. The island is characterised by vividly painted fisherman cottages and tiny canals and famous for lace production; we were given free time to experience life on the picturesque island before travelling back to St Mark’s Square in Venice.

Our final destination before a flight back to Luton was The Galleria Academia, a museum hosting the world’s most comprehensive collection of venetian painting, all based on religious scenes. These artworks are arranged chronologically, from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century, and highlights include work by artists Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese, in particular Tintoretto’s “Transport of the Body of St. Mark” and Titian’s “Pieta”. The museum was also hosting a sculpture exhibition, with work from various artists including Auguste Rodin, a sculptor who has provided inspiration for my own clay modelling of my father.

The 2017 Art & Design trip to Venice provided both artistic knowledge and a strong foundation for our A-level studies, as well as a life experience in itself; from studying a Picasso to eating gelato, the study trip was a well-rounded and enriching exploit that has inspired me as a student and created life-long memories.