Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal)

  • 1697 - 1768
  • Artist
  • Italian

It was fashionable for eighteenth-century English tourists on the Grand Tour to bring home a Canaletto veduta, or view painting, to commemorate their trip. A Venetian native, Canaletto was first trained by his father, a theatrical scene painter. In 1719 he went to Rome for a year, possibly studying with Dutch and Italian painters of classical ruins. Canaletto's earliest datable works are four views of Venice from about 1725, unusual because they were painted directly on the site. He later returned to the traditional method of working from drawings and mastered the camera obscura as an aid. His early works show a poetic responsiveness to the light, atmosphere, and moods of Venice, along with an eye for striking compositions that stayed with him for life.

After staying in England for ten years, Canaletto gave up his small Venetian views in 1756 and turned to grandeur and fantasy, broadening his subject matter to include views of Rome. He also evolved an increasingly linear, firm manner that suited his clients' demands for accuracy and was more readily taught to assistants. He provided numerous drawings for engravers. Except for his nephew Bernardo Bellotto, none of Canaletto's many pupils are known, but he was widely imitated in both Venice and England during his lifetime.