The city of Venice has always provided an almost irresistible lure for both writers and artists. Henry James loved it, as did Ruskin, Browning, Pound, and Brodsky. For artists, it has been a compulsory magnet since the time of Bellini and Canaletto. By the nineteenth century there was hardly an artist of note — Whistler and Turner, Sargent and Prendergast, Sickert and Bonington — who was not seduced by the city’s charms, history, and aesthetic heritage.
For the depiction of Venice by artists, it’s a high bar that s been set, but Adam Van Doren, grandson of the Pulitzer-prize-winning poet Mark Van Doren, convincingly confronts the competition in this charming memoir, a verbal and visual account of his love affair with the city. His story is personal; like all other artists, he sees the city with and through his own eyes, but he is also well-informed historically. He laces his tour with information, opinion, and citation. With Van Doren as guide, the reader’s tour of the city is rich and convincing, filled with the presence of illustrious predecessors.
With an informed preface by the scholar Theodore Rabb and a charming foreword by Simon Winchester, with 21 full-color drawings by the author/artist, and even six pages of commendably lucid “Notes” on the personalities and structures discussed, this is a book that will proudly take its place alongside the many others that have celebrated this city for centuries.