CANALETTO (1697-1768)Nationality: ItalianActivity: Painter of views mainly
Canaletto was the most famousVenetian painter of views of the 18th century. His father was a decorator of theatre sets and he began his career in that field before he turned to painting topographical views from 1720 after a visit to Rome, where he was influenced by the work of Giovanni Paolo Panini.
From 1723 he was painting picturesque views of Venice exhaling strong contrasts of light and shade and a great sense of perspective. One of his most early significant works was, the Stone Mason's Yard ( now in the National Gallery in London).
Canaletto worked at the beginning under the influence of Luca Carlevaris but soon found his own style in painting views which were more accurate than those represented by his rival. These paintings notably showeds more precise handling and were to make him become famous abroad, notably in England where many noblemen who had made the Grand Tour had discovered his enchanting canvasses while visiting Venice.
He then turned to painting the ceremonial and festival subjects which ultimately formed an important part of his work. His patrons were chiefly English collectors, for whom he produced numerous series of views. Joseph Smith, a merchant, appointed British Consul in Venice in 1744 became Canaletto's patron and led him to enlarge his repertory in the 1740s when he produced numerous capricci.
He also produced 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, Canaletto had to deal with so many commissions that he came to multiply similar views quite mechanical in handling. He often used the camera obscura to produce his works, which sometimes lost the poetry of his early ones.
In 1746 he went to England, at the suggestion of Jacopo Amigoni because the the War of the Austrian Succession had had some negative effects on the tourist trade in Venice. He became much successful with his views of London and of various country houses but his work became increasingly repetitive, so much that it was rumoured, probably by rivals, that he was not in fact the famous Canaletto but an impostor.
In 1755 he returned to Venice and remained much active for the remainder of his life. Joseph Smith notably sold the major part of his paintings to George III, thus bringing into the royal collection a spectacular group of Canaletto's paintings and drawings. Canaletto was highly influential in Italy and abroad. His nephew Bernardo Bellotto adopted his style and took it to Central Europewhile his best followers in England were William Marlow and Samuel Scott.