If you happen
to find yourself in London in the next few months there are the
paintings of Canaletto, that old Grand Tour favorite, on view at
(along with the work of his rivals). La Serenissima--no
city more suited to vedute or view painting.
Canaletto was the master of vedutismo and came into his own
at the time that the
Grand Tour was the thing to do, and his
paintings became the perfect take-home souvenir. The Lagoon,
the Grand Canal, the Piazza San Marco, the Rialto--all captured in
his eternal golden light.
Canaletto, The Grand
Canal and the Church of the Salute, 1730, Museum of Fine Arts,
to look up for Giovanni Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto
(1697–1768) when he started to bathe his views in a diffused
glowing sunlight (moving away from his earlier somber, brooding
pieces)—for what could be more beautiful than old stone in
sunlight...terracottas, ochres, shades of yellow, and the white of
drifting clouds in paintings that capture his great sweeping sense
of atmospheric space. Canaletto was originally a painter of
set designs, and one can see in his work the use of scena
dell’angolo—the angled scene—as well as the influence of
Renaissance perspective, and the use of the camera obscura.
View of the Arch of Constantine with the Colosseum, 1742 – 1745,
Oil on canvas, Getty Museum (painted during a spell in the 1740s
when he painted scenes of Roman ruins)
In his last
years Canaletto had a new rival – Francesco Guardi (1712–1793)–who
was to become a successor of sorts (outliving him by 25 years) and
adding his own distinctive touch to Venetian view painting.
Guardi’s capriccis (imaginary paintings of architecture,
especially classical ruins) are moody, capturing some of
the misty quality of watery Venice. The arch in ruins, the
temple in the background (below) were recurring motifs in
his work. .
Guardi, Venetian capriccio:1775-80, Oil on panel,
(Richard Lassels in The Voyage of Italy (1670) first gives
the practice of gallivanting around Europe a name) was a must for
aristocratic young British men. The Finishing School of
Travel if you will. Several months of meandering at leisure:
Greece and Italy in particular....and there are even two volumes
by Boswell on the Grand Tour (yes, the biographer of Samuel
Johnson). Later, it became fashionable for women to
undertake the journey, often chaperoned by an elderly relative,
With a View
is probably the most charming literary take on the Grand
Tour....and an option if one is not going to be in London, or
Italy, any time soon....
Canaletto & His Rivals, National Gallery, London
Grand Tour (Italy), Getty online
& His Rivals, the accompanying catalog
A Room With a
View, E. M. Forster
A Room With a
View, the film--a Merchant Ivory production
art literature film
Canaletto, Ruins of the Forum, Looking towards the Capitol. 1742.
Oil on canvas. Royal Collection, UK (also from his 1740s Roman