Who was Canaletto (1697-1768)?


1. Canaletto's early life

Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto, was born in 1697 in Venice. He was the son of the scene-painter, Bernardo Canal (c.1674-1744) with whom he first trained in this genre. He first worked with his father in Venice in 1716-18 and later accompanied him to Rome in 1719.

2. Making an impression on Grand tourists

Canaletto became successful in his 20s becoming best known for his unrivalled views of his native city, Venice, which he painted almost exclusively between 1725 and 1740. In the 1730s his work was in great demand from English travellers on the Grand Tour. Prints after his paintings (including our two views) by Visentini from 1735 enhanced his reputation – he became the most distinguished view-painter, etcher and draughtsman of the 18th century.

3. Canaletto in England

Canaletto moved to England in 1746, where he remained until at least 1755. While in England, Canaletto painted views of the Thames, Whitehall and his patrons’ country houses and estates.

4. The hand of the master – how Canaletto created his cityscapes

Canaletto used a traditional Venetian warm, red ground to prepare his canvases and make his colours more vibrant. He employed incisions in the wet paint to reinforce some of his architectural structures. Examples of such incisions can be seen in our two canvases and will be further studied when at the Hamilton Kerr Institute. The figures and boats were painted last.

5. Canaletto, his studio and imitators

We are fortunate to have a number of original Canaletto paintings at the Wallace Collection, alongside several paintings by the circle of Canaletto. The exact members of his studio have yet to be identified aside from his nephew Bernardo Bellotto (1720-80) and his father.

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