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City of Pictures

Martin Gayford


A visual journey through five centuries of the city known for centuries as 'La Serenissima' – a unique and compelling story for both lovers of Venice and lovers of its art

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A Sunday Times Art Book of the Year

Venice was a major centre of art in the Renaissance: the city where the medium of oil on canvas became the norm. The achievements of the Bellini brothers, Carpaccio, Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese are a key part of this story. Nowhere else has been depicted by so many great painters in so many diverse styles and moods. Venetian views were a speciality of native artists such as Canaletto and Guardi, but the city has also been represented by outsiders: J. M. W. Turner, Claude Monet, John Singer Sargent, Howard Hodgkin, and many more.

Then there are those who came to look at and write about art. The reactions of Henry James, George Eliot, Richard Wagner and others enrich this tale. Nor is the story over. Since the advent of the Venice Biennale in the 1890s, and the arrival of pioneering modern art collector Peggy Guggenheim in the late 1940s, the city has become a shop window for the contemporary art of the whole world, and it remains the site of important artistic events.

In this elegant volume, Gayford – who has visited Venice countless times since the 1970s, covered every Biennale since 1990, and even had portraits of himself exhibited there on several occasions – takes us on a visual journey through the past five centuries of the city known as ‘La Serenissima’, the Most Serene. It is a unique and compelling portrait of Venice that will delight lovers of the city and lovers of its art.


'Venice isn’t just the most painted city in the world, it is probably the most written about too. Finding a fresh angle from which to view it is a challenge. Gayford’s answer is to understand the city and its history through the splendid and varied art it has inspired. Packed with potted histories and informed anecdotes, this is a tome to pack on a visit to La Serenissima'
Waldemar Januszczak, Art Books of the Year, The Sunday Times

'Clear, vividly well written and deeply original ... a very bold, far reaching analysis of this much discussed city ... to offer an original perspective on this important city is a very significant achievement'
David Carrier, Counterpunch

New European

'Engaging, sumptuously illustrated … This is the present influencing the past and vice versa, living history'
Country & Town House

'A compelling portrait of Venice capturing the work of great painters from Titian and Canaletto to Monet and Turner'

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 23.4 x 15.3 cm

Extent: 464 pp

Illustrations: 186

Publication date: 5 October 2023

ISBN: 9780500022665

About the Author

Martin Gayford is a writer and art critic. His books include Michelangelo: His Epic Life (Penguin), as well as Man with a Blue Scarf (in which he recounts the experience of being painted by Freud), Modernists and Mavericks, Spring Cannot Be Cancelled (with David Hockney), A History of Pictures (with David Hockney), Shaping the World (with Antony Gormley), and Love Lucian: The Letters of Lucian Freud, 1939–1954 (with David Dawson), all published by Thames & Hudson.