Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    THOMAS MORAN (American, 1837-1926)
    Venice, Grand Canal, 1903
    Oil on canvas
    14-1/4 x 20-1/4 inches (36.2 x 51.4 cm)
    Signed and dated lower left: T Moran / 1903

    Private collection, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

    This painting will be included in Stephen L. Good and Phyllis Braff's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's works.

    Regarded as one of the foremost American artists of the nineteenth century, Thomas Moran is best known for his magnificent views of the American West, in particular his detailed depictions of Yellowstone that played a major role in convincing Congress to make the region a national park in 1872. Though the artist spent a great deal of time painting the American frontier, it is his dreamy, jewel-toned depictions of Venice that perhaps best epitomize his intent to imaginatively capture the romantic, picturesque beauty and the unique sensory experience of a locale, rather than depicting reality in topographically accurate detail. As stated by the artist, "All my tendencies are toward idealization. A place as a place has no value in itself for the artist." (Peggy and Harold Samuels, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West, p. 333). Indeed, as seen in the present work, Thomas Moran's ability to convey the scenic splendor of the Venice canal in a unique, poetic manner was what would lead to the widespread popularity of his views of the Italian city.

    Born in Bolton, England in 1837 as one of seven children, Thomas Moran emigrated to the United States with his family in 1844, settling in Philadelphia. At the age of sixteen, he was apprenticed to a local engraving firm, and spent his spare time painting and drawing. In 1856 the young artist began exhibiting his work at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Although Moran was self-taught, he received guidance from the painter James Hamilton, who introduced him to the work of the popular English landscape and marine painter, Joseph Mallord William Turner. After studying illustrations of Turner's dynamic paintings, Moran was determined to see the artist's work in person. In 1862 he sailed for Britain and spent several weeks at the National Gallery in London studying Turner's works firsthand. Moran began to emulate the artist's atmospheric, light-filled compositions, deriving inspiration from his striking color effects and masterful handling of light, air and mist, as seen in the present work.

    Thomas Moran first visited Venice in May of 1886. While there, he produced a number of sketches which he would later develop into oil paintings in his studio. The following spring he exhibited two views of Venice at the National Academy, and thereafter he submitted a Venetian painting to the exhibition nearly every year he participated. The canal was a favorite theme of Moran's, and the subject of Venice quickly became his "best seller." Moran would visit Venice again in 1890, this time returning to New York with a large gondola that he kept on a pond near his summer residence in East Hampton, and which served as a model for many of his Venetian paintings to come.

    Works of art and travel literature with Venice as their subject were in abundance and at the height of vogue during the latter part of the nineteenth century, perhaps owing to the exotic, otherworldly concept of a city floating on water. Moran's depictions of the colorful gondolas and fishing boats of Venice fed an American nostalgia for a pre-industrialized past, and served as a counterpoint to a rapidly changing society, which was pressing full speed ahead into a new age.

    As exemplified in the present work, Moran, like Turner, took advantage of the mirror-like effects of architecture and fishing vessels reflected on the surface of the water, creating an interplay of bright colors and dazzling effects. In Venice, Grand Canal, a vivid, jewel-toned palette and sweeping brushstrokes enhance the ethereal quality of the scene, transporting the viewer to the idyllic world of Moran's travel recollections.

    Condition Report*: Original canvas with no evidence of restoration under UV examination (nothing fluoresces under black light); stretcher creases visible on all four sides; overall craquelure commensurate with age; very faint speckled accretions in water along lower edge and in white clouds above campanile; on the verso, there are three minor vertical pulls in the canvas weave, two of which are slightly visible on the front of the canvas, beneath the pigment (appearing as a 3.5" vertical passage in the water to the left of the central gondola and as a 1.25" vertical passage in the upper right sky); otherwise in good condition. Framed to an overall size of 22 x 28 inches.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2010
    10th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 7,930

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    Shipping, Taxes, Terms and Bidding
    This item cannot be shipped using standard methods. Please contact us for more information. Sales Tax information

    Important information concerning Sales Tax and Resale Certificates. Learn More

    Terms and Conditions  |  Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments |  Glossary of Terms

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 45 days left to consign to the 2019 November 2 Texas Art Signature Auction - Dallas!

    Learn about consigning with us

    While I regret my inability to personally view the work, you provided an excellent substitute for my not being able to do so, and I look forward to future Heritage auctions.
    Allan Rappaport,
    Tiburon, CA
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2014 November 21 Tiffany, Lalique & Art Glass Signature Auction
    2014 November 21 Tiffany, Lalique & Art Glass Signature Auction
    REALIZED $1,441,296
    2014 November 17 American Art Signature Auction
    2014 November 17 American Art Signature Auction
    REALIZED $6,712,638
    2014 November 14 American Indian Art , Pre-Columbian, & Tribal Art Signature Auction
    2014 Nov 14 American Indian Art, Pre-Columbian & Tribal Art Auction
    REALIZED $441,524
    2014 November 8 Modern & Contemporary Art Signature Auction
    2014 November 8 Modern & Contemporary Art Signature Auction
    REALIZED $5,683,719
    2014 November 6 Silver & Vertu Signature Auction
    2014 November 6 Silver & Vertu Signature Auction
    REALIZED $439,980
    2014 October 18 The Belo Collection of Texas Art Signature Auction
    2014 October 18 The Belo Collection of Texas Art Signature Auction
    REALIZED $624,835
    2014 October 16 Photographs Signature Auction
    2014 October 16 Photographs Signature Auction
    REALIZED $824,108
    2014 September 28 Nature & Science Signature Auction
    2014 September 28 Nature & Science Signature Auction
    REALIZED $1,089,341
    2014 Sept 13-14 Gentleman Collector Signature Estate Auction
    2014 Sept 13-14 Gentleman Collector Signature Estate Auction
    REALIZED $1,725,292
    2019 April 23 Illustration Art Signature Auction - Dallas
    2019 April 23 Illustration Art Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED $2,477,033