Thomas Moran’s View of Venice

On your inspiration as we speak is Thomas Moran’s View of Venice. It’s an intricate watercolor portray of Italy’s Canal Grande. 

Thomas Moran, View of Venice, 1888
Thomas Moran, View of Venice, 1888

(You possibly can obtain a high-resolution picture of the portray right here.)

Under are some key observations concerning the portray.

Compressed Values and Darkish Accents

Right here’s a grayscale of the portray:

Thomas Moran, View of Venice, 1888, Grayscale

The portray follows a theme of compressed values plus just a few sharp, darkish accents round the point of interest. That’s, many of the portray is analogous in worth (lightness) apart from just a few accents that are considerably darker. This can be a tried and true technique. The compressed values simplify the portray and the darkish accents present bursts of curiosity and exercise.

I additionally created a 2-value notan utilizing Photoshop. See under. This picture represents probably the most summary design of lights and darks within the portray. Seeing a portray on this approach can typically reveal underlying patterns and constructions that you simply might need in any other case missed. The notan doesn’t reveal something new on this case, however it does verify the theme of compressed values plus darkish accents.

Thomas Moran, View of Venice, 1888, Notan

Burst of Colour Saturation

Along with the darkish accents, Moran additionally used bursts of shade saturation round the point of interest. Discover the tight focus of robust reds, yellows, and blues. This helps draw our consideration to this space. It additionally creates a way of elevated exercise and motion.

Thomas Moran, View of Venice, 1888, Detail, 1200W

Heat/Cool Temperature Distinction

There’s an attention-grabbing play between heat and funky colours, as if they’re jousting for superiority. The nice and cozy colours look like profitable round the point of interest, however the cool colours appear to have the higher hand all over the place else.


Moran’s signature and the 4 birds within the backside proper nook play an essential position in balancing the portray. With out these particulars, all of the exercise on the opposite aspect may seem too heavy.

Thomas Moran, View of Venice, 1888, Detail, Bird and Signature

Rule of Thirds

Right here’s the portray with a three-by-three grid excessive:

Thomas Moran, View of Venice, 1888, Grid

A couple of key factors:

  • The point of interest is positioned across the bottom-left intersection;
  • The peaks of the tallest buildings come to the highest horizontal line;
  • The boats are roughly aligned by the underside horizontal line; and
  • Every phase is exclusive.

Simplification of Element

Moran simplified the element across the edges of the portray. This focuses our consideration across the center and offers the portray a country, virtually unfinished look. It’s just like a vignette impact however with lighter edges.


Once I first consider Moran’s work, huge and wealthy landscapes in oil come to thoughts. His watercolors, like View of Venice, give a a lot lighter and extra delicate perspective. In addition they spotlight how your alternative of medium can affect the general look of your paintings. Oils are typically bolder and richer by nature in comparison with watercolors. It’s essential to grasp your chosen medium so you’ll be able to play into these inherent strengths and limitations.

Thomas Moran, The Juniata, Evening, 1864
Thomas Moran, The Juniata, Night, 1864 (Oil Portray)

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Blissful portray!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy