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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
"Seeing Venice" - just the title is inviting. Who would not want to see this incomparable city, whether for the first time or again and again?
Mark Doty, poet and National Book Critics Circle Award winner, presents the Getty Museum's "View of the Grand Canal" in a lyrical essay accompanied by intriguing details from the painting. Doty calls our attention to various aspects of this masterpiece - water, sky and shadows.
He also focuses on other artists and writers who have been attracted by this mystical city - Henry James, Tintoretto, and the Brownings.
An especially treasured gift, the jacket of this small (approx. 5" by 5") book unfolds to a miniature poster of the painting, which is an outstanding item in the Getty's collection.
Bellotto, the painter, was a nephew of Canaletto and recognized for his idealized views of Venice. This particular painting measures over 4 feet by 7 feet, and limns a cross-section of Venetian society engaged in daily business.
Whether afficionados of Italy or not "Seeing Venice" is a mini treasure.
- Gail Cooke
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Everything that Mark Doty touches turns to something beautiful, whether he is writing poetry or writing about art as SEEING VENICE illustrates. This tiny book would make a wonderful gift to lovers of Venice, art, poetry, Mark Doty or all of the above. In a brief essay, Mr. Doty illuminates Bernardo Bellotto's (1722-1780) Venetian painting "Grand Canal" completed when the artist was all of 19.
What I find so wonderful about this little treasure is that Mr. Doty writes straightforward, unpretentious prose about a beautiful painting; and, as always, he convinces me that he is accurate in what he says. He apparently does what a lot of us do not-- he simply looks closely at a work of art and makes sensible observations. For example, in this painting he is not sure whether the season is spring or autumn since the artist doesn't indicate a time. "Spring, fall? No way to distinguish, not in this landscape. Do the clouds promise whether to come, or speak of turbulence passed? These boatmen, of course, would know precisely how to read them."
Not content just to explicate, Mr. Doty compares the isolation of the figures here with the works of Edward Hopper. He also contrasts Venice with modern New York City and quotes both the writers Henry James and John Ruskin. James on Venice: "Of all the cities in the world it is the easiest to visit without going there." Mr. Doty concludes that the painting is about time and makes a good argument for this premise.
The book contains 20 or 30 closeup photographs of various details from the painting as well as a large complete picture that folds out for a better view.
Mr. Doty is one of our treasures.I'd love to see him write an entire book on painting.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
SEEING VENICE is a truly appropriate title for this small gem of a book that celebrates the presence of the Bellotto 18th Century painting 'View of the Grand Canal' which graces the collection of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. As in his earlier book STILL LIFE WITH OYSTERS AND LEMON Mark Doty writes succinct conversations with us about just looking at this elegant painting. His intensely poetic vision accompanies us through the various aspects of not only the painting but of the history of Venice. He reminds us that Venice is essentially a relic from the past, loved by writers, painters, composers, and visitors. Why is it so universally loved? 'Part of the world's love for this place must have to do with the fact that it has always seemed ephemeral, doomed. Might the whole city drift away? Certainly it might go under.' Taking us on a visual journey of every aspect of the painting (reflections, the boats, the people, the domes, the endless vista into space, etc.), Doty pauses to remind us how we in this country treat historical buildings and places differently. 'We like our evidence of time at a distance: quaint, pickled in resin or amber. We don't want it near our bodies.' Poignant food for thought.
And as if this remarkably beautiful essay weren't enough the book is one of close details of the grand painting that spans the cover of the dust jacket: Doty's words are 'illustrated' by a careful art editor, unfolding in quality color, production and design. This is a stunning little work of words, history, art and poetry. Would that all great paintings could be so illuminated for us by this gifted man's eyes and words!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2009
First, a shameful metaphor: imagine your favorite food in the whole world. Now imagine a single, perfect, delicious bite of that food, mouth-watering in appearance. You gaze at it; finally you consume it--not too quickly---not too slowly. It tastes better than you even imagined. It was a mere bite, but it was enough.

It was amazing!

That is exactly what Mark Doty's Essay Seeing Venice: Bellotto's Grand Canal was for me.
This tiny (15.5 x 14 x 1.5 cm) book puts giant coffee-table style formats to shame, making it perfect for apartment living, tucking into your luggage after seeing the real painting at the Getty Museum, and making a 'statement' in favor of a greener planet. The cover of the book, carefully shrouded in a vellum fog, unfolds to reveal Bellottos' masterpiece in its entirety. The pages of the book focus on details of the painting.

Doty's elegant, lean prose is all about the painting and not about showing off his own magnificent talent with words. He manages to evoke rich sensory appreciation of the smells, textures, people's lives, the uniqueness of Venice in the world.

I'll fight an urge to quote many lines in favor of just one about "Water":

" An odd hardness about it, a flat, impermeable look, Glassy, impenetrable, as if it strove to be part of the world of pavement."

In my utterly pedestrian life, prior to reading this book I had no desire to visit Venice, examine Bellotto's Grand Canal, nor read Doty's poetry. Now, however, I hope to do all three! (Well, if I can't make it to Venice, at least I can go to the Getty Museum).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This nice little book (about 5 1/2" x 6") contains an essay written by Mark Doty. He has done a nice job of looking closely at this beautiful painting and writing about different things within the picture. The pictures within the book are very nice, and the dust jacket unfolds to become a complete picture of the famous painting. This would be a great coffee/end table book, as well as a nice office or hostess gift. This would also be great for the art enthusiast!

Extended:
The book is made up of a nice essay that follows the progression of pieces of the painting View of the Grand Canal by Bernardo Bellotto. I enjoyed viewing the pictures as I read the essay.

Content: The essay and included pictures take a closer look at this famous painting.

Format: The book starts with an essay by Mark Doty, then spotlights different parts of the painting in over 40 pictures. The book ends with a page about the artist. Special Note: The dust jacket unfolds to become a picture of the entire painting.

Readability: Very easy to read, with clear pictures that help the reader to focus on different parts of the painting.

Overall: A great book for an art enthusiast. Also great for the coffee table or office end-table.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2008
Poet and essayist, Mark Doty, has made Bellotto's Grand Canal, the subject for this exquisite little book. The painting of the grand canal in Venice is an absolute masterpiece, giving Doty much cause for reflection. The author has taken the painting and segregated different sections for closer scrutiny. Each page shows a piece of the painting in close up detail. At the beginning of the book, Doty reflects on all the elements in the picture: sky, buildings, people and their clothing, surfaces, shadows and much more. Doty also describes the differences in the city now and at the time of the painting. In his musings, it is easy to tell he is a poet. The words and phrases are lyrical and easily project the image to the reader.

When the dust jacket is removed and opened up, it is the complete rendering of Bellotto's masterpiece. Covering the paper dust jacket is an additional jacket ,opaque in nature, giving the book a watery, almost haunting feel. This book is a delight to hold in the hands, a treasure to savor. Seeing Venice would be a wonderful gift for any art lover or arm chair traveler. Definitely 5***** in my opinion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 30, 2008
One of the most popular paintings in the Getty Museum is View of the Grand Canal by Bernardo Belloto. It is a huge painting (53¼ x 91¼ inches) and it depicts a typical day in the Venice of 1740. Seeing Venice: Bellotto's Grand Canal is a small book (both in size and length) dedicated to this beautiful painting. It contains an essay by Mark Doty and close-up views of sections of the canvas. Mark Doty is a poet and memoirist and he does a wonderful job of analyzing and describing the painting. He says:
"And so this must be one of the few three-hundred-year-old canvases in the world which one could place exactly in the spot where it was painted and see, in essence the same space."

Since there isn't a picture of the whole painting in the book, the dust jacket folds out to reveal the entire thing. Reading the essay and seeing the painting makes me want to go to Venice so I would recommend this charming book to lovers of art and Italy.
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