Venise. Le môle à l'entrée du Grand Canal et la Salute le soir was painted during Eugène Boudin's third and final voyage to Venice, which took place in 1895. It was only a few years earlier that the artist had made his first trip there, and indeed a second; neither of those earlier trips made a huge impact on the artist judging by the small number of works he painted then. However, his two-month stay in 1895 resulted in an incredible artistic renewal. The artist was filled with enthusiasm for the city, and created an incredible body of works which he himself would refer to, the next year, as his 'swan song' (Boudin, quoted in L. Manoeuvre, 'Venise', pp. 168-69, Eugène Boudin: 1824-1898, exh. cat., Honfleur, 1992, p. 169). Venise. Le môle à l'entrée du Grand Canal et la Salute le soir shows one of Boudin's most favoured views in Venice: the Punta della Dogana is visible at the entrance to the Grand Canal and, next to it, Santa Maria della Salute. In the foreground, people are walking on the Riva degli Schiavoni, past Renaissance architect Jacopo Sansovino's celebrated Biblioteca Marciana, its roof crested by obelisks.
Boudin had already painted from a similar position to Venise. Le môle à l'entrée du Grand Canal et la Salute le soir in 1893, and revisited the same vista and variations thereof in 1894 and 1895. Several of those paintings are now housed in a range of museums, including the Phillips Collection, Washington DC, the Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow, the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff and the Musée de la Province de Québec. In each, Boudin, with his characteristic skill and infinite capacity for nuance, has captured a different moment, a different light effect, a different amount of hustle and bustle on the busy waterway. Here, he has managed with deft simplicity to conjure the movement of the boats, the jostling of the crowd on the Riva degli Schiavoni and the infinitely subtle light effects of the beginnings of dusk over the city, visible in the gentle hints of reds and yellows that so delicately bruise the cloudy sky.
Boudin had travelled to Italy and the Mediterranean in part for the sake of his health; not for him, however, the glaring light of the South. Instead, he was entranced by the variations of grey that he found in Venice, as is clear from a letter he wrote from there on the 20 June of that year:
'I am busy painting views of Venice, a superb town as I have no need to tell you, but somewhat disguised by the usual painters of the area who have to some extent disfigured it by making it appear as a region warmed by the hottest suns... Venice on the other hand, like all luminous regions, is grey in colour, the atmosphere is soft and misty and the sky is decked with clouds just like the sky over Normandy or Holland' (Boudin, quoted in J. Selz, Eugène Boudin, Naefels, 1982, pp. 84-86).