Moonlight shone brightly on the gently rippling waters of the Orseolo Basin, illuminating a shoal of gondolas tied together for the evening; a picture-perfect scene young artist Alan Reed would later capture during his stay at the historic Hotel Cavalletto on the family’s long-awaited return to Venice in 1994.
His watercolour study of the hotel itself was bought by one of the North East’s most renowned opera singers Graeme Danby, signalling the beginning of something special for the 14 paintings Alan painted on this return trip to Venice.
Staying at the Hotel Cavalletto for three days before moving on to Marghera in the suburb of Venice to stay with Susan’s friends Franca and her family, it was here Alan began to entrench himself in the Venetian way of life, often stealing himself away for a morning’s painting by getting the bus into Venice at 7am before returning for lunch at one o’clock on the dot – an Italian custom. The pace of life in Venice can be wonderfully sedate as Susan Reed knows to well, who went from rushing into town on the bus for the school run to waiting patiently to be sailed down the Grand Canal in a Vaparetto.
A scene from Alan’s pocket sketchbook filled with mementos of Venice
Day trips to fair Verona, morning service at Chiesa Evangelica di Padova and boat trips to beautiful Burano to see its famous coloured houses, to Treviso and the coastal town of Chioggia with wife Susan and two children Louise and Oliver provided Alan with an abundance of inspiration for his artwork and fond memories for the young family.
Squeezing as much sightseeing as they could into their fourteen day trip, Alan’s mind raced with visions of this enigmatic, unique city on his return
A city famed for its iconic architecture and the next big city to his home in Newcastle, Alan would often find himself on a train heading north and spend the day exploring Edinburgh and capturing its timeless beauty in his pocket sketchbooks….
Capturing the hustle and bustle of the crowds of Christmas shoppers on Princes Street on a late winter’s afternoon, or the dappled sunlight that bathes the old stonework of the Grassmarket, Alan’s artwork proved very popular with tourists and residents alike. Given the couple’s love of Venice, it’s no surprise that the Valvona & Crolla Ristorante and Deli in Edinburgh became one of their favourite restaurants to visit during their frequent trips to Edinburgh. Scotland’s oldest Delicatessen and Italian Wine Merchant; their visits were a dream come true for Susan who could buy fresh fruit and vegetables flown in from Milan that morning and pick up gourmet goodies that the family used to enjoy whilst living in Venice.
The relationship between Edinburgh and Venice goes back to the 18th century when Edinburgh continued to expand rapidly. The medieval part of Edinburgh, now known as the Old Town was no longer large enough to contain the city’s rapidly growing population. A solution to the problem was sought in the form of a public competition inviting plans to develop the city. The young architect James Craig won – his plan being an elegant Neo-classical development located to the north of the castle. Building work carried out between 1767 and 1830 became known as the New Town and was noted as a huge success. The result was one of the most attractive cities in the whole of Europe, and Edinburgh was soon dubbed the “Venice of the North”.
A Tale of Two Cities
A chance meeting with his father and his father’s agent during a trip to Edinburgh later led to an exhibition of his work titled A Tale of Two Cities at the Malcolm Innes Gallery, Edinburgh in 1995.
It was here that Alan drew upon the similarities between Venice and Edinburgh, two very distinctive cities in terms of architecture, but both equally as unique and enigmatic as one another.
Showcasing his series of paintings from his trip to Venice a year earlier and some of his most popular Edinburgh street scenes the exhibition remains one of Alan’s favourite exhibitions he has curated throughout his career.
As the exhibition opening date drew closer, Alan had planned to invite guests to a preview evening – only for their plans to be interrupted thanks to a postal strike, meaning very few people actually received their invitations to the event. In a twist of fate, this is when Susan joined the business and suggested they schedule an exhibition of the paintings in their home for those who didn’t receive their invites in time. Working tirelessly to call customers past and present, design new invitations and organise the event – A Tale of Two Cities part two was the start of a truly special working relationship for the couple, and an opportunity for families to reconnect as Susan reconnected with her father’s cousin Dr Alan Rutherford who was working in Edinburgh and spotted Alan’s artwork in the Malcolm Innes Gallery!
As their story unfolds, Venice and Edinburgh continue to be two cities that define Alan’s artwork. Featured in various publications and exhibitions, Venice and Edinburgh are enjoyed the world over…