Giovanni Antonio Canal (1697–1768), better known as Canaletto, is considered by many to have been one of Italy’s greatest view painters. The Venetian Canaletto’s images of the city’s canals, streets, and monuments are in the permanent collections of some of the world’s most acclaimed museums. The artist would have a brief tenure in Britain, between 1746 and 1755, the products of which are the subjects of an exhibition in Cumbria, United Kingdom.
To be sure, Canaletto was a prolific colorist as well, exquisitely skilled in the play and subtle effects of light, a feature common among painters hailing from the “floating city.” Popular during the 18th century was “The Grand Tour,” a trip undertaken by wealthy well-bred English gentlemen that made stops all across Europe, especially Venice and Rome. During these tours, the Englishmen would delight in collecting artworks from antiquity and by contemporary painters, among them Canaletto, who became known for producing outstanding views of their cities, a perfect product for members of the tour. When war caused the tours to diminish and, later, cease, Canaletto followed his patronage to Britain, where he remained for nine years, painting a number of beautiful city- and landscapes.

For the first time ever, many of these works from Canaletto’s tenure in England have been brought together for a tantalizing exhibition at Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Cumbria, United Kingdom. The exhibition opened on October 22; the gallery writes, “Through a series of astonishing canvases and drawings, Canaletto celebrated the accomplishment, success and wealth of the rising British nation and its latest achievements in architecture and engineering. By the time of Canaletto’s arrival in London most of the first generation of classical Palladian architects were dead and Britain’s increasing prosperity and confidence allowed for a more eclectic and liberal attitude to its newly-designed buildings.

“Canaletto’s London is busy but beautiful with its abundance of new landmarks: Wren’s Baroque churches, the majestic St Paul’s Cathedral and the naval palaces of Greenwich; Hawksmoor’s ‘Gothick’ towers for Westminster Abbey, William Kent’s new Palladian Horse Guards building and the Rococo pleasure gardens at Vauxhall and Ranelagh. The construction of two marvels of engineering, the new bridges across the Thames at Westminster and Walton, is documented in magnificent detail.”

“Canaletto: Celebrating Britain” opened on October 22 and will be on view through February 14.
To learn more, visit Abbot Hall Art Gallery.

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