Painting Venice in a Pandemic

While the coronavirus pandemic impacted the whole world in 2020, I painted 20 pictures of Venice, Italy. Iconic views, beautiful lockdown landscapes, and stormy seas are presented here, as well as a seven-foot wide, six-canvas composition of the Doge's Palace Flooded.

These artworks, their themes, and my painting process are explored on this page through a virtual exhibit, links to blogs, and more.

"Painting Venice in a Pandemic" (virtual exhibit)

"Painting in a Pandemic" Blog

At the beginning of 2020, I wanted to follow "My Year of Monet" by painting pictures of Venice, like Monet had done when he was my age. However, as I explain in "Painting in a Pandemic" and "Still Painting in a Pandemic," the project morphed into something bigger and more relevant with the COVID-19 lockdowns in Italy and at home in Carlsbad, CA. The final 2020 article is "New Venice Pandemic Paintings."

The Venice Paintings

Calm before the Storm

The first few paintings were started when life was normal. At that point, I was focusing on Monet-like subjects such as these Venetian houses (below). I wasn't attempting to emulate his style (as I had during my studies of 2019), but rather approached this series with fresh new confidence in my own techniques.

Venice Homes (#1) ~ Ray & Sally Lemberg, Prescott, AZ 28 x 22 • 2020

As a matter of fact, I got the idea for this Venice series when I attended a Monet retrospective exhibit in December, 2019 and one of his Doge's Palace masterpieces caught my eye. Here's my rendition:

Monet, 2008
The Doge's Palace (#4) 2020 • 28 x 22

My wife, Lindsey, and I visited Venice in 2003 and stayed directly across the canal  from the Palais Bembo. At that time, I did a watercolor sketch from my hotel room and could only dream of a day I might be skilled enough to attempt an oil painting of the same beautiful building. Mission accomplished!

2003 (watercolor)
Palais Bembo (#2) 2020 • 28 x 22

On our 2003 trip, I only brought along a video camera, and subsequently, didn't have much original source material for my compositions. These two (below) were based on still frames from our home movies:

Gondolas & Giorgio Maggiore (#3) ~ Arnold Andersen, Iowa City, IA 2020 • 28 x 22
Gondolier in 2003 (#5) ~ Ann Cooke, Cincinnati, OH 28 x 22 • 2020

Otherwise, for source material, I manipulated online images I found and used these vacation photos from my friend George:

Grand Canal with Santa Maria della Salute (#6) ~ Tom & Christine Habib, Carlsbad, CA 28 x 22 • 2020
Gondolier George (#14) ~ Patty Barna, Vista, CA 28 x 22 • 2020
San Michele Sunset (#16) ~ Brenna Towne, Walnut Creek, CA 28 x 22 • 2020

The Pandemic Lockdown

In March, 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic was becoming a global phenomenon, and Lindsey and I were under quarantine at our home in Carlsbad, CA. Venice was also under lockdown, and my motifs shifted. Without tourism and countless boats polluting the Venetian lagoon, the water turned clearer and more serene.

Pandemic Calm (#11) ~ Erica Pitkin, Fort Polk, LA (2020) • 28 x 22

Rumors of dolphins and swans returning to the Grand Canal surfaced, and I believed them when I started this picture. Actually, dolphins were confirmed off the coast of Sardinia, Italy, in the Tyrrhenian Sea, not the Adriatic, where Venice sits. Nonetheless, I liked the symbolism of the dolphin's return and included it in the painting. Can you find it?

The Legend of the Lockdown Dolphin (#9) ~ Kyle Smith, Los Angeles, CA 28 x 22 • 2020

The swans were in Burano (below), an island suburb of Venice:

Swans in a Pandemic (#10) ~ Jim & Luanna Quirk, Carlsbad, CA 28 x 22 • 2020

Venice Flooded

While searching for potential images to paint, I saw photos of the November, 2019 floods in Venice. Due to storms and high tides, the water levels were exceptionally high; and, that prompted me to make a statement about global warming that would contrast the more traditional, lovely compositions I'd been considering for this series.


Rialto Bridge Flooded (#8) 2020 • 28 x 22
Venice Storm (#20) 2020 • 28 x 22

The picture below shows the 2019 flooding of the Doge's Palace, a building that dates back to 1340. It survived major fires and centuries of decay before its most recent renovations in 2008.

With increasingly severe weather, this iconic structure is in catastrophic danger.

St. Mark's Basilica and Doge's Palace Flooded (#7) 2020 • 28 x 22

After I completed these 20 paintings, I spent the final two months of 2020 creating a seven-foot-wide hexaptych (six canvases) featuring the façade of the Doge’s Palace flooded.

As an artist, I'm distraught that this symbolic representation showing the dangers of global warming could conceivably exist on a wall somewhere after its subject, one of the world's architectural masterpieces, is destroyed by rising tides and severe storms.

The Doge's Palace Flooded • 84 x 66 (six canvases) 2020

Individual Canvases: