Canaletto in Venice sketches until July 1 #ItalyBest
April 1, 2012 1 Comment
Today, April 1, opens in Venice, the exhibition “Canaletto. The Venice Notebook” dedicated to the famous notebook of sketches by Canaletto, unique in the history of the eighteenth century, code never visible to the public, now presented with twenty-four drawings of ancient Venetian origin, belonging to public and private collections, for the first time together.
Much of Canaletto’s early artwork was painted “from nature”, differing from the then customary practice of completing paintings in the studio. Some of his later works do revert to this custom, as suggested by the tendency for distant figures to be painted as blobs of colour – an effect produced by using a camera obscura, which blurs farther-away objects. However, his paintings are always notable for their accuracy: he recorded the seasonal submerging of Venice in water and ice.
Later Canaletto became known for his grand scenes of the canals of Venice and the Doge’s Palace. His large-scale landscapes portrayed the city’s famed pageantry and waning traditions, making innovative use of atmospheric effects and strong local colors. For these qualities, his works may be said to have anticipated Impressionism. Many of his pictures were sold to Englishmen on their Grand Tour, often through the agency of the merchant Joseph Smith. In the 1740s Canaletto’s market was disrupted when the War of the Austrian Succession led to a reduction in the number of British visitors to Venice. Smith also arranged for the publication of a series of etchings of “capricci” in his vedute ideale, but the returns were not high enough, and in 1746 Canaletto moved to London, to be closer to his market.
He remained in England until 1755, producing views of London (including the new Westminster Bridge) and of his patrons’ castles and houses. His 1754 painting of Old Walton Bridge includes an image of Canaletto himself. He was often expected to paint England in the fashion with which he had painted his native city. Overall this period was not satisfactory, owing mostly to the declining quality of Canaletto’s work. Canaletto’s painting began to suffer from repetitiveness, losing its fluidity, and becoming mechanical to the point that the English art critic George Vertue suggested that the man painting under the name ‘Canaletto’ was an impostor. The artist was compelled to give public painting demonstrations in order to refute this claim; however, his reputation never fully recovered in his lifetime. After his return to Venice, Canaletto was elected to the Venetian Academy in 1763. He continued to paint until his death in 1768. In his later years he often worked from old sketches, but he sometimes produced surprising new compositions. He was willing to make subtle alternations to topography for artistic effect.