Giovanni Antonio Canal, known simply as Canaletto, was born to paint. He started his career working on theatrical sets, but distinguished himself for his paintings that depicted the everyday images he saw on the streets.
Born in 1697, Canaletto had painting in his blood. His father, Bernardo Canal, was a painter best known for his work on theatrical sets. His uncle, Bernardo Bellotto, was also a working artist, and his nephew chose the name Canaletto to set himself apart from his family. Although he worked closely with his family, Canaletto had interests of his own, and he began painting people and places. Towards the end of his life, Canaletto’s pieces lacked the flare and style of his earlier work, which led some to claim that he had hired other artists to create his work. Although he denied these claims, his reputation suffered until his death.
Early in his career, Canaletto made a name for himself in foreign markets. The artist often painted for art lovers in France, Germany, and other countries, which helped distinguish him from his famous uncle. While other artists of the time created simple landscapes and portraits, Canaletto focused on recreating the images he saw on the streets he walked every day. The Stonemason’s Yard, which he created after visiting a lower-class area of the city, remains one of his most popular paintings. Joseph Smith, an art agent, saw the talent in the young artist and encouraged him to paint images of the Venice canals and surrounding areas. Smith later became his agent and sold his paintings in England and other countries. Noticing the number of fans he had in England, Canaletto decided to move there, which led to a change in the work he produced. Instead of Italian landscapes, he created paintings such as Old Walton Bridge over the Thames. Citing health problems and issues with his painting, he later returned to Venice. Although he created pieces later in life, including The Rialto Bridge and Palazzo Grimani, his later work was a far cry from his earlier pieces. He continued painting city scenes and landscapes until his death, often using sketches he had made during his younger years for inspiration. Canaletto also worked as a teacher, shaping the talents and skills of later Rococo painters.
- Castle Howard once had fifty paintings by Canaletto on display, but fires destroyed forty-six of them.
- One of his paintings sold for more than $11 million in 2005.
- His paintings were so realistic that the Italian government once used some of them to boost tourism.
Some Examples of Canaletto’s Artwork