February 20 to May 30, 2011 – National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Venice inspired a school of competitive view painters whose achievements are among the most brilliant in 18th-century art. The exhibition celebrates the rich variety of these Venetian views, known as vedute, through some 20 masterworks by Canaletto and more than 30 by his rivals, including Michele Marieschi, Francesco Guardi, and Bernardo Bellotto. Responding to an art market fueled largely by the Grand Tour, these gifted painters depicted the famous monuments and vistas of Venice in different moods and seasons.
Giovanni Antonio Canal was born in Venice on October 17 or 18, 1697 to a well-defined class in Venetian society, just below the ranks of the patrician nobility. His father, Bernardo Canal, was a painter of theatrical scenery and a view painter, and Canaletto appears to have assisted him at an early stage in the role of theater designer. In 1719-1720 he accompanied his father to Rome to execute scenes for two operas by Alessandro Scarlatti performed there during the Carnival of 1720. While in Rome, according to Anton Maria Zanetti, one of the artist’s earliest biographers, the young man abandoned the theatre and began to draw and paint architectural views. Canaletto’s name was inscribed for the first time in the register of the Venetian artists’ guild in 1720, which suggests a date for the beginning of his career as pittor di vedute, or view painter. He adopted the diminutive Canaletto (the little Canal) by the mid-1720s, presumably to distinguish his work from his father’s.
Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the National Gallery, London.