Friday, January 9, 2015

Canaletto, Grand Canal: Looking from Palazzo Balbi

Canaletto, Grand Canal: Looking from Palazzo Balbi, c1726

Giovanni Antonio Canal (1697-1768), usually known as Canaletto, was an Italian painter and printmaker, famous for his views of Venice.  Inspired by yesterday's reference to views of Venice, I decided to write about the master of the genre.  Canaletto's most famous works, such as The Grand Canal and the Church of the Salute and Piazza San Marco, are highly detailed and realistic depictions of the city.  Canaletto painted often painted directly from nature (unusual for the time) and was committed to portraying the life and character of his city.  Canaletto also did paintings of Rome and London, as well as landscape vies of the Italian and English countryside. The painting of the Grand Canal that I chose to feature is rather different from most of Canaletto's work.  It is more atmospheric and less straightforward.  Rather than his typical sunny views of the city, Canaletto included this grey sky, which causes grey water in the canal.  The sky suggests storm clouds, so the explanation may be as simple as being the reality of what the painter observed.  Nevertheless, the image is very evocative and gives a very different impression of Venice and the Grand Canal.  Buildings are cast into shadow, and the boats do not give the impression of lively, bustling activity, but instead seem stagnant and immobilized.  The ominous sky looms over the scene, but there is still a patch of blue and lighter clouds near the center of the composition.  Canaletto assures us of the presence of light and liveliness further down the canal, that we can travel toward down the water.

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