In October 1908, Claude Monet traveled to Venice for the first and only time in his life. He did it accompanied by his second wife Alice and invited by the eccentric Mrs. Mary Young Hunter, an influential lady of Edwardian high society and patron of art from the close circle of John Singer Sargent and Rodin. The couple first stayed a couple of weeks at the palazzo that Mrs. Hunter had rented, before moving to the Grand Hotel Britannia, the most elegant on the Grand Canal and the first to have electric light in all its rooms, where they extended their stay in the city for six more weeks.
According to his biographers, Monet had never been interested in Venice in the least, it was a destination too trite for artists of the time, but as often happens when traveling without expectations, the city was a real discovery for the painter and one of the places that most marked him in his career.
During the eight weeks he spent in Venice that fall of 1908, Monet produced 37 paintings in which he portrayed the city from a dozen angles, very close to each other, at different times of the day and always empty. The neoclassical basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore, the gothic facade of the Doge’s Palace, the baroque church of Santa Maria della Salute –On which he painted six paintings–, the Palazzo Dario, the Palazzo Contarini, the Palazzo da Mula… And although, as the author himself acknowledged then, those canvases were only “trials and beginnings, sketches that will mean nothing more than memories for me”, in time they became some of his most representative masterpieces, like the famous Twilight in Venice today exhibited in the Tokyo Bridgestone Museum.
Many of these 37 canvases were made from the balconies of your suite at the Grand Hotel Britannia, where every afternoon at sunset, after having spent the whole day working in the street with his easel, Monet could be seen obsessively painting, trying capture the fleeting magic of light.
Located at the mouth of the Grand Canal, two steps from the Gran Teatro La Fenice and four minutes walk from Piazza San Marco, The Grand Hotel Britannia, opened in 1895 for the first Biennale, was transformed over time into the Hotel Europa & Regina and, since last autumn, after two years of intense reform and an extension in which two of the neighboring palaces have been annexed, it lives a new reincarnation under the name of St. Regis Venice, a hotel designed to experience the privilege of being in Venice.
Today, 102 years after that trip, the St. Regis Venice has just presented its most special suites as part of the last phase of the hotel’s renovation.
Designed as residencies for contemporary artists and full of dividing mirrors that amplify the view and the beauty of the exterior, the four Monet suites overlook the Grand Canal from the Juliette balconies on the first and second floors of the palazzo Tiepolo and, as he explains British Conservative Robin Greene, Art Curator of St. Regis Venice, “They celebrate not only the importance of Venice in the history of art and the location of the hotel as muse and artist inspiration but, more specifically, the importance of the six weeks he spent in the hotel painting from the terrace of his suite had in Monet’s work ”. Robin Greene has been commissioned to create a collection of contemporary art unique in the world that shows the city from a perspective never seen before. “Each and every one of the works of art and accessories that we see scattered throughout the hotel represent the DNA of Venice, but from an updated interpretation”, declara Greene.
Thus, the Monet suites exhibit a series of contemporary artwork created specifically for these spaces by such prominent artists as the French painter Olivier Masmonteil, the American sculptor Karen La Monte –Of her is also the life-size sculpture that welcomes guests entering the hotel from the Grand Canal– or the Italian sculptor Massimiliano Pelletti, in addition to a series of glass ornaments made by the master Adriano Berengo and his Berengo Studios, with which the St. Regis Venice collaborates in the Glasstress project, which can only be seen in these suites.
For Olivier Masmonteil, the first artist-in-residence invited by the hotel, any process of pictorial creation is summarized in “light, perspective and how to create that light. Thus, you have paintings that give the feeling that you are looking at a wall and others that seem like you are looking through a window. In this case, to make this series of five paintings for the Monet suites, I opted for a balance between the two, between wall and window, and how to create that light with color and that color with light ”.
Handmade furniture inspired by the curves of the gondolas, the fabrics made to measure following, patterns inspired by the textures of the Palace of the Doges and the pavements of the San Giorgio cemetery, roofs that reflect the flow of the canal water … The decoration of the suites, as well as the exquisite contemporary reinterpretation of the entire hotel, has been done london studio Sagrada, whose main objective has been, according to its director Richard Saunders, “Bring the outside light into the rooms”, in addition to “creating the relationship between the place, the art, the culture and the design of the hotel through a color palette that focuses on three tones: dawn, dusk and darkness ”. If Monet returned to Venice today, he would surely stay in his suite overlooking the Grand Canal again.