Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Giovanni Antonio Canal (28 October 1697 – 19 April 1768) better known as Canaletto, was a Venetian painter famous for his landscapes, or vedute, of Venice. He was also an important printmaker in etching.
He was born in Venice as the son of the painter Bernardo Canal, hence his pseudonym Canaletto ("little Canal"), and Artemisia Barbieri. His nephew and pupil Bernardo Bellotto was also an accomplished landscape painter, with a similar painting style, and sometimes used the name "Canaletto" to advance his own career, particularly in countries-Germany and Poland-where his uncle was not active.
Canaletto served his apprenticeship with his father and his brother. He began in his father's occupation, that of a theatrical scene painter. Canaletto was inspired by the Roman vedutista Giovanni Paolo Pannini, and started painting the daily life of the city and its people.
After returning from Rome in 1719, he began painting in his famous topographical style. His first known signed and dated work is 'Architectural Capriccio' 1723. Studying with the older Luca Carlevaris, a moderately-talented painter of urban cityscapes, he rapidly became his master's equal.
(Giovanni Antonio Canal Italian Rococo Painter and Etcher (1697 – 1768) by Mr. Bruce Johnson at hoocher.com)
By 1723 he was painting picturesque views of Venice, marked by strong contrasts of light and shade and free handling, this phase of his work culminating in the splendid Stone Mason's Yard (c. 1730, National Gallery, London,). Meanwhile, partly under the influence of Luca Carlevaris, and largely in rivalry with him, Canaletto began to turn out views which were more topographically accurate, set in a higher key and with smoother, more precise handling - characteristics that mark most of his later work. At the same time he began painting the ceremonial and festival subjects which ultimately formed an important part of his work.
(By Emil Kren and Daniel Marx at vWeb Galllery of Art)

Rio dei Mendicanti
Oil on canvas, 1723-24
Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Ca' Rezzonico, Venice
From Emil Kren and Daniel Marx at wga.hu

Rio dei Mendicanti (above) is one of a set of four paintings by Canaletto, usually regarded as his earliest surviving vedute (view paintings) of Venice. They may have been executed for a Venetian patron, possibly as decoration for the portego of a Venetian palazzo, but are first recorded in the collection of the Princes of Liechtenstein in 1806. It is a work of such extraordinary accomplishment that it is hard to believe it was not preceded by other, now lost, studies by the artist.
Unlike other pictures from the same set, it shows a part of the city not found on the itinerary of most visitors. This is an area where Venetians live and work, rather than a well-known site. At the left the footway runs along before the church of San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti and the Scuola di San Marco. A wooden bridge spans the canal, while beyond it can be seen the Ponte del Cavallo. The artist has particularly exploited the colourful laundry hung out from the rooftops and windows at the right. There is a heavy, ponderous atmosphere, achieved through the dappled treatment of the silvery light and feathery brushstrokes. This approach, which in part anticipates the work of the Venetian painter Francesco Guardi (1712-93), is characteristic of Canaletto's earliest pictures.
[By Emil Kren and Daniel Marx at vWeb Galllery of Art)

The Stonemason's Yard
Oil on canvas, 1726-1730
Original at the National Gallery in London
From wikipedia.org

Giovanni Antonio Canal's popularity with English Grand Tourists - mainly young noblemen completing their education with an extended trip to the Continent - has meant that many more of his pictures can be found in Britain than in his native Venice or even throughout Italy. Trained as a scene painter, by 1725 he was specialising in vedute - more or less topographically exact records of the city, its canals and churches, festivals and ceremonies. He visited England several times, but his English paintings did not please, and he returned home for good in about 1756.
Although we associate Canaletto for the most part with mass-produced, crystal-clear scenes of celebrated sights, the 'Stonemason's Yard' (above), his masterpiece, is not of this kind. A comparatively early picture, and almost certainly made to order for a Venetian client, it presents an intimate view of the city, as if from a rear window. The site is not in fact a mason's yard, but the Campo San Vidal during re-building operations on the adjoining church of San Vidal or Vitale. Santa Maria della Carità, now the Accademia di Belle Arti, the main art gallery in Venice, is the church seen across the Grand Canal.The Church of Santa Maria della Carità is still flanked by the slender campanile that collapsed in 1741.
Canaletto's later works are painted rather tightly on a reflective white ground, but this picture was freely brushed over reddish brown, the technical reason for the warm tonality of the whole. Thundery clouds are gradually clearing, and the sun casts powerful shadows, whose steep diagonals help define the space and articulate the architecture. Not doges and dignitaries but the working people and children of Venice animate the scene and set the scale. In the left foreground a mother has propped up her broom to rush to the aid of her fallen and incontinent toddler, watched by a woman airing the bedding out of the window above and a serious little girl. Stonemasons kneel to their work. A woman sits spinning at her window. The city, weatherbeaten, dilapidated, lives on, and below the high bell-tower of Santa Maria della Carità it is the little shabby house, with a brave red cloth hanging from the window, which catches the brightest of the sunlight.
(By Emil Kren and Daniel Marx at vWeb Galllery of Art)

Piazza San Marco with the Basilica
Oil on canvas, c. 1730
Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge
From Emil Kren and Daniel Marx at wga.hu

The Bucintoro Returning to the Molo on Ascension Day
Oil on canvas, c. 1730
Private collection
From Emil Kren and Daniel Marx at wga.hu

Processions and festivals, ceremonies and regattas - even Gentile Bellini's 15th century paintings bear witness to the brilliant pageantry of La Serenissima. Canaletto not only continues in this tradition, but actually revives it, adding to it his own views and temperament and clothing it in the garb of his own era. Whether he portrays the city's Ascension Day celebrations, the symbolic marriage of Venice with the sea, or the arrival of the Doge: it is no longer with the grand choreography and dignified regularity that dominates Bellini's paintings.
Canaletto executed some paintings for the Imperial ambassador to Venice, Count Bolagnos, recording the ceremony of the presentation of his credentials to the doge in 1729. The resulting two paintings, the Reception of the Ambassador in the Doge's Palace and the Bucintoro Returning to the Molo on Ascension Day (above), are now in private collection. The latter is considered to be one of Canaletto's highest achievements.
(By Emil Kren and Daniel Marx at vWeb Galllery of Art)

Ascension Day, 1732
Return of the Bucintoro to the Molo
Royal Collection, Windsor
Original uploader was Honbicot at en.wikipedia

View of the entrance to the Arsenal
Oil on canvas, 1740s
Private collection
From Wikipedia.org

The Reception of the French Ambassador in Venice
Oil on canvas, 1740s
Hermitage, St Petersburg
Scan by Mark Harden at artchive.com

His patrons were chiefly English collectors, for whom he sometimes produced series of views in uniform size. Conspicuous among them was Joseph Smith, a merchant, appointed British Consul in Venice in 1744. It was perhaps at his instance that Canaletto enlarged his repertory in the 1740s to include subjects from the Venetian mainland and from Rome (probably based on drawings made during his visit as a young man), and by producing numerous capricci. He also gave increased attention to the graphic arts, making a remarkable series of etchings, and many drawings in pen, and pen and wash, as independent works of art and not as preparation for paintings. Meanwhile, in his painting there was an increase in an already well-established tendency to become stylized and mechanical in handling. He often used the camera obscura as an aid to composition. In 1746 he went to England, evidently at the suggestion of Jacopo Amigoni (the War of the Austrian Succession drastically curtailed foreign travel, and Canaletto's tourist trade in Venice had dried up).
(By Emil Kren and Daniel Marx at Web Galllery of Art)

Imaginary View of Venice
Etching, 1740-42
British Museum, London
From Emil Kren and Daniel Marx at wga.hu

In the early 1740s Canaletto made an important journey outside of Venice along the Brenta canal with Bellotto towards Padua, and executed a number of drawings that were to form the basis of etchings and paintings. The stimulus of new surroundings seems to have had a very positive effect, because these works, although perhaps his least known, can in some cases be counted as the most innovative and attractive.
The etching in particular (above) is noteworthy. He executed in total 34 plates, probably between 1735 and 1746, and published 31 of them together. The views included depictions of Dolo, Mestre, Padua, Venice and the lagoon - in fact almost the entire range of subjects Canaletto explored on canvas. The artist proved himself as adept at capturing the nuances of atmosphere, texture and visual anecdote in this graphic form, as in his more prolific paintings. But exactly how he learnt the art of etching is not known, he may have been essentially self-taught.
(By Emil Kren and Daniel Marx, Web Galllery of Art)

Grand Canal
Looking North-East from Santa Croce to San Geremia
Pen and ink on paper, c. 1732
Royal Collection, Windsor
From Emil Kren and Daniel Marx at wga.hu

Rome: The Arch of Constantine
Oil on canvas, 1742
Royal Collection, Windsor
From Emil Kren and Daniel Marx at wga.hu

Rome: The Arch of Constantine (above) is one of a series of five impressive paintings of Roman subjects that Canaletto executed for Joseph Smith. It is not entirely clear whether they were based on a new visit to Rome, or sketches the artist had made there in 1720. It is possible that he could additionally have been inspired by prints of Roman subjects in Smith's collection.
The arch was built by the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, to commemorate his victory over Maxentius. The view is playfully manipulated; the friezes and inscriptions he chose to depict are those which can be seen on the north side, but it is painted as though looked at from the south. Through it can be seen the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, and to the right the edge of the Colosseum. The main group of figures in the foreground, one of whom points with his stick, are probably Grand Tourists who have come to admire the ancient glories of the city.
The seated figure at the left, who has beside him a portfolio and ruler and is either writing or drawing, may well be intended as a self-portrait. This is particularly suggested by the figure's proximity to Canaletto's rather grand inscription asserting his authorship and the date of the painting, in a manner that replicates the carvings on the arch.
(By Emil Kren and Daniel Marx at Web Galllery of Art)

View of a River, Perhaps in Padua
Oil on canvas, 1745
Private collection
From Emil Kren and Daniel Marx at wga.hu

Westminster Bridge, London
with the Lord Mayor's Procession on the Thames
Oil on canvas, 1747
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut
Scan by Mark Harden at artchive.com

London: Northumberland House
Oil on canvas, 1752
Collection Duke of Northumberland
Scan by Mark Harden at artchive.com

Northumberland House (above) at Charing Cross was the London residence of the Earl of Northumberland, who commissioned Canaletto to paint this picture. The house had recently been inherited and refashioned, and Canaletto concentrated his attention on its elegant and mellow facade. The impressive appearance of the building is enhanced by its towers which are surmounted by gilt weather vanes, and the row of obelisks that support lamps on the pavement before it. The house was eventually demolished in 1873, making way for Northumberland Avenue, and the lion above the doorway was then moved to Syon House in Isleworth, Middlesex, where it can still be seen.
Canaletto created far more than just a celebration of a particular building, however; he also provides us with an invaluable record of its surroundings, and a vivid impression of the capital coming to life early in the morning. To the right is the statue of Charles I by Hubert Le Sueur (c1595-c1650) that now stands at the entrance of Whitehall from Trafalgar Square, and at the left is the entrance to the Strand and the Golden Cross Inn, which has a sign standing in front of it.
The painting was much copied and engravings were made after it; as a result of the distribution of these copies, it was to have a significant influence on the work of English artists who depicted urban scenes.
(Text from Christopher Baker, Canaletto, at artchive.com)

View of the Ducal Palace in Venice
Oil on canvas, c. 1755
Uffizi, Florence
Scan by Mark Harden at artchive.com

The Campo di Rialto
Oil on canvas, c. 1758-63
Gemaeldegalerie, Berlin
Scan by Mark Harden at artchive.com
By Martin Gayford at telegraph.co.uk

Piazza San Marco c. 1760
Looking East from the South West Corner
Pen and ink with wash on paper,
Royal Collection, Windsor
From Emil Kren and Daniel Marx at wga.hu

His works portraying his native city go beyond a simple representation. They are neither pure inventions nor mere recreations. His use of light, his capacity to reduce the architectural information and to combine different perspectives gives it a special quality.
His way of showing the space and formulating it in a surface of color is not inspired by any predecessor. In a revolutionary study in 1985, the Swiss art historian André Corboz ended the myth of the "photographic painter" with his two-volume monograph entitled Canaletto. An Imaginary Venice (published in Milan). Antonio Canal was not limited to what his eyes could see
(Canaletto - Giovanni Antonio Canal at cosmopolis.ch)

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