Skip to main content
Venice as painted by Canaletto

The name Canaletto for art historians is synonymus with Venice. He was a master of “Veduta”style of painting and is associated with the Venician school of art. Veduta or “view painting emerged in the 17th century. This style involves the depiction of urban landmarks and landscapes. Canaletto and the Venician school came to prominence during this period.

Giovanni Antonio Canal, as was his real name, was born in October 28, 1697, in the republic of Venice. The city at the time was a cultural centre, know for its luxury crafts, like glassmaking and lace. Canaletto led a generation of Venetians creatives, such as Vivaldi and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, the famous Rococo painter.

He became famous for his accurate and vivid depiction of the Venician cultural life. Additionaly, he showcased with great mastery and accuracy the topography of the city and the urban structure of the time. His attention to detail only strenghens his fame and popularity. Furthermore, grand scenes of the canals of Venice, became very famous and are to this day considered impressive. He was among the first artists to make innovative use of the atmospheric effects and strong colors that define Venice. For these reason some historians believe that Canaletto influenced Impressionism.

In the early 1720 the merchant Joseph Smith sold many of his pictures to Englishmen, acting as an agent for the painter. Smith also arranged for the publication of a series of etchings of caprichos (capriccio Italian for fancy), but the returns were not high enough, and in 1746 Canaletto moved to London, to be closer to his market.

The artist remained in London until 1755. During his stay there, he produced many painting of famous British landmarks. Some of them include the new Westminster Bridge and castles of his patrons.

Westminister bridge by Canaletto

Moreover, Canaletto was expected to paint London in the same way that he painted his native city. Overall, this period of his life is not very sucessful as the quality of his life was declining. Some British art critics even suggested that an impostor is painting under the name “Canaletto”

After his return to Venice, Canaletto joined 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.

In the18th century Catherine the Great and other European monarchs vied for his grandest paintings. The record price paid at auction for a Canaletto is £18.6 million for View of the Grand Canal from Palazzo Balbi to the Rialto, set at Sotheby’s in London in July 2005. Canaletto and the Venician School is a remarkable point in history of art. His contribution inspired artists to come and art movements in the future.

Leave a Reply