In the European autumn of 2009, when the weather was unusually warm, Wendy Sharpe took an apartment being offered for rent by a professor of music. The Venice apartment was brilliantly located. From its windows, Sharpe could see the eternal beauty of the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge. Using the apartment as her home and sometimes studio, Sharpe spent an uninterrupted month as a free wanderer in the ancient city of Canaletto and Guardi.
Venice was not new to Sharpe, and the familiarity born of earlier trips allowed her to settle quickly into a routine. Using all her senses, she explored everything – the bustling tourist sites where cameras clicked and maps were pored over, and the quiet back streets where every corner presented a fresh visual delight. She studied the Tintoretto paintings in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. She spent entire days in a corner of the Piazza San Barnaba, observing the ebb and flow of the city and its people and making jottings in gouache.
“I could see gondoliers trying to chat up tourists, little bridges, a cafe, a church. It was kind of a microcosm of a whole lot of things,” Sharpe says. “I would walk there with gouache and water containers, and work all day. Spending a whole day sitting in a place like that, you get a real understanding of how it works.”
An excerpt from Elizabeth Fortescue’s essay Venice. Elizabeth Fortescue is a Visual arts writer, with the Daily Telegraph, Sydney.