Mar 29, 2013
06:37 AM
Connecticut Today

Artist Adam Van Doren Shares His Love of Venice, Italy

Artist Adam Van Doren Shares His Love of Venice, Italy

Venice may have been responsible for ending Adam Van Doren’s architecture career. It was while earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture at Columbia University that he made the “mistake” of visiting Venice one summer. Confronted with the unsurpassable beauty of the canal-filled city and its architecture, he realized his real passion was for drawing buildings rather than constructing them.

“I saw the buildings as works of art unto themselves and was less interested in their technical aspects,” says Van Doren, whose family has kept a home in Cornwall for three generations (grandfather Mark and uncle Carl were both Pulitzer-winning authors).

Van Doren’s lifelong love of the Italian city is showcased in his new book, An Artist in Venice (Godine), his reminiscences illustrated by his artwork. Darren Winston, Bookseller in Sharon is hosting a signing with Van Doren on April 6, along with opening an exhibition at the shop of his paintings, Venetian and otherwise, until April 28.  

As a boy, Van Doren spent summers and holidays in Cornwall and pursued his muse first as a cartoonist. In high school, he developed higher aspirations.  “I was apprehensive about diving in completely with fine arts,” he says. “When I had to declare a major, I picked architecture, thinking ‘that’s a respectable profession’.”

His Columbia mentor was Robert A.M. Stern, now head of Yale’s architecture school, who encouraged his graphic skills. “Architecture was not something you could do half-heartedly,” says Van Doren. “You have to be all in, like General Petraeas. I would lie awake at night obsessing over whether I’d put a door in the right place in my blueprints. Architecture school toughens you up to be an artist.”

"San Giorgio, 2009" by Adam Van Doren

Though Van Doren has painted all over the world, Venice is his favorite subject. “Venice is conducive to the experience of painting,” he says. “It’s meditative, with unusual light at all times of the day. There are no tall buildings so you have unobstructed panoramas.  You can disappear in time, with no reminders of modernity except tourists.”

He still finds every visit rewarding, he says. “I went back six months ago and saw four churches I’d never seen before. I think people are secretly moving buildings around  . . . I wondered ‘How did I miss these?’”

Van Doren is currently teaching a course at Yale combining studio practice of watercolor with a history of the medium itself. “I have a neat group of students, one of whom is the hockey team goalie, a philosophy major,” he says.

Darren Winston, Bookseller, 81 Main St., (Route 41), Sharon, 860/364-1890,

Artist Adam Van Doren Shares His Love of Venice, Italy

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