Giovanni Antonio
Canal (Canaletto)

Italia • 1697−1768

Biography and information

Giovanni Antonio Canalbetter known as Canaletto (October 18, 1697, Venice - April 20, 1768, Venice) - Italian artist, master of the urban landscape and head of the Venetian school of vedutists. His atmospheric images of Venice and London influenced all subsequent generations of landscape artists.

Features of the artist Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto): in his work, Canaletto combined the freedom and subtlety of drawing with a dramatic figurative interpretation of Venetian architecture. The transmission of sunlight and shade, the effect of the sky covered with clouds, and the play of light on buildings suggest that he really did work on nature often, which was a very unusual and rare practice among artists during his creative work. Later he began to use a camera obscura and developed a formula for placing architectural elements and figures on a picture plane in such a way as to evoke the strongest impression of the depicted view.

Famous paintings by artist Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto): “Architectural Capriccio”, “Capriccio with Ruins”, “Reception of the French Ambassador in Venice ", "Palazzo Grimani", "Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice", "Westminster Abbey with a procession of the Knights of the Bath".

Antonio Canal was born in the noble family of the artist Bernardo Canal, which has its own coat of arms, which Antonio subsequently used as one of his signature versions. Bernardo Canal became the first teacher of his talented son. Together with his father and brother, young Antonio worked on the theater stage of Venice, making out Vivaldi's operas and at the same time learning the subtleties of color transfer and the construction of a stage perspective. In 1719, he and his family worked in Rome on theatrical productions of operas by Alessandro Scarlatti, and in his free time he disappeared in museums. Here he was greatly impressed by the works of the Roman master of the urban landscape. Giovanni Paolo Panini. Upon returning to his homeland, Antonio began to paint the daily life of Venice, its streets and residents. Accurate eye, excellent knowledge of composition, knowledge of architecture and attention to detail have become the key to his success in the field of painting. In all likelihood, at the same time he took the nickname Canaletto (Canal Junior), so that he would not be confused with his father, who also worked in the landscape genre. However, this did not help much and subsequently created quite a bit of confusion, as the artist’s father, Bernardo Canal, as well as his nephew, student, famous landscape painter and portraitistBernardo Bellotto (1722-1780) - also called themselves "Canaletto".

One of Canaletto's teachers was Luka Karlevaris, a famous master of the Venetian cityscape and a very multi-faceted personality. Karlevaris was interested in sciences, in particular, astronomy, and also was well versed in architecture and engineering. It must be said that the student quickly became equal in skill with the teacher, having mastered not only the technique of writing, but also the creationcapriccio - fantasy architectural landscape, where fiction is intertwined with reality. By 1725, Canaletto became a famous master. When the artist and collector Alessandro Marchesini wanted to buy two landscapes of Venice, his agent offered the works of Canaletto, noting: "... it looks like Karlevaris, but you see how the sun shines in them."

In the 1730s, Canaletto was at the zenith of fame: realistic views of the city performed by him dreamed of bringing exceptional beauty and a merchant to Venice with him to his homeland. The artist was able to notice the small details and to give them so bright and fresh that looking at him lead was a true delight not only for the owners of the picture, but also for the guests whom the works of Canaletto proudly showed. There were so many orders that, in the end, Canaletto began to work using a camera obscura, with which he quickly made basic sketches of the future picture. In addition, he invented and began to use mechanistic technology using a ruler and a compass, and also derived a compositional formula for himself, according to which he placed architectural structures and details on the picture. If the landscape seemed Canaletto insufficiently accurate or harmonious, he easily made small changes to the image of architectural structures.

Throughout his life, the artist created such a large number of landscapes of Venice that some art historians believed that he had a large workshop with apprentices that they did not correspond to reality. There was no equal to Canaletto, he appointed prices at times prohibitively high - and the tourists paid him, fascinated by the skill and realism with which he depicted Venetian canals, squares and palaces.

In 1740, the War for the Austrian Heritage began - the European powers tried to tear off each piece from the Habsburg heritage. The number of wealthy tourists, especially the British, who visited Venice, was greatly reduced, and the source of Canaletto’s orders dried up. During this period, the artist made his acquaintance with Joseph Smith, a publisher and a merchant, a collector, and later a British consul in Venice. Joseph Smith became an agent of Canaletto. Discussing what is happening, Smith, with his entrepreneurial approach to any business, advised Canaletto to expand the range of topics, including the Roman sights and the landscapes of Padua and Brent. During this period, Capriccio's style began to play an important role in the work of Canaletto, when architectural ensembles in the picture were created from imaginary elements (veduta ideata). Also in the years 1741-44, Canaletto created a series of "Capriccio" of 30 engravings, made extremely finely and skillfully, which demonstrated his ability to transfer perspective and the play of light and shadow. However, the series did not bring much revenue.

Using his international fame, the artist in 1746 went to England, closer to customers, where he was received very warmly. Here he spent almost 10 years, devoting the majority of his time to working in the London workshop. Despite the great differences between English and Venetian architecture, Canaletto created many innovative and expressive works in London. However, by the end of his stay in England, the artist’s style had become so mechanistic (albeit compositionally perfect) that rumors spread that he was not the famous Canaletto, but an impostor working in the style of an outstanding master. The scandal was so loud that Kanaletto was forced to organize a public demonstration of his skill, painting a picture in the presence of witnesses - and, thus, denied all the speculations of the spiteful critics.

In 1762, Joseph Smith sold his remarkable art collection to King George III of Great Britain. So the British royal collection was replenished with the richest in the world collection of works by Canaletto.

The return of the artist to his homeland was marked by the public, and later by official representatives of the artistic circles of Italy. In 1763, Antonio Canal became a member of the Venice Academy of Fine Arts, and later received a post at the Art College (Collegio dei Pittori). Canaletto worked until the end of his days, but the tops of his career were in the past. Nevertheless, it was Antonio Canal who became one of the most influential vedutists of Italy, leaving behind him a galaxy of brilliant students - Francesco Guardi, Michele Marieschi, Giuseppe Bernardino of Bison. His nephew and student Bernardo Bellotto conquered the royal courts of Central Europe, and the artistsWilliam Marlowe and Samuel Scott continued his business in England.

Antonio Canal died on April 19, 1768 in his native Venice, whose magnificent festivities, magnificent canals and wide, light-flooded squares, he wrote all his life. The most complete collections of paintings and drawings by Canaletto are in the British Royal collections in Windsor and Buckingham Palace; His paintings are in all major museums of the world.