Canaletto Self Portrait
The River Thames with St. Paul's Cathedral on Lord Mayor's Day, detail of St. Paul's Cathedral, c.1747-48
The Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice, c.1730
Ducal Palace, Venice, c.1755
There are not many biographical details exist about Canaletto. His father was Bernardo Canal, and his mother was Artemisia Barbieri. Both were members of the upper-class Venetian society that included noblemen and original citizens, and Canaletto was proud of his ancestry. Bernardo Canal was a reputed theatrical scene painter, and Canaletto's elder brother also joined his father, but Canaletto was also able to help his father design. When he was 21 years old, he traveled with his father to Rome in 1718 to work on some designs for a series of Alessandro Scarlatti operas. It was the turning point of Canaletto's career as he decided to abandon theatrical design.
According to the early critics, Canaletto was tired of the theater and bore with the dramatic poets. He transferred his artistic vision onto the Roman monuments and the modern buildings. These architectural drawings became his first independent subjects. Canaletto returned to Venice in 1718 and was highly inspired by the Roman paintings of cityscapes. He started painting the city and the people in it. He built his reputation with these kinds of paintings. Check our new Floral Painitngs of this artist and master oil paintings of famous artists
In Venice, he studied under a great cityscape painter, Luca Carlevaris. He soon surpassed his master's talents, and he produced his first signed work in 1723. After two years later, a buyer from the Lucchese art collector Stefano Conti had reached to buy two Venetian views by Carlevaris, but he was directed towards Canaletto. Canaletto's early artworks were often painted in natural surroundings. His paintings were popular for their scientific accuracy, and soon Canaletto became popular as a master Vedutista.
Canaletto's popularity started to spread when he came to influential agents' attention, which helped him to promote his artwork throughout Europe. During the 1730s, another agent highly praised Canaletto's work and said: "he is a great painter of views like only a few famous past artists, but none of them came close enough to Canaletto's taste, intelligence and truth." His career further developed when the Prince of Liechtenstein added several paintings to his collection; after that, Canaletto worked with the Englishman Joseph Smith, who became one of his most important agents.
Long before the invention of the photograph, Canaletto's skill of capturing real-life images of Venice made him very popular among tourists. Many travelers purchased his paintings. Canaletto's career was not controversy-free.
He trained his nephew Bernardo Bellotto who became his assistant for several years before parting his ways to become an artist on his own. The pair were very close to each other, and both traveled together in 1742 on a trip to Dolo and Padua. There they took inspiration from nature for future paintings. The influence of Canaletto was so great that it was difficult to differentiate between the two artist's works. Bellotto started to capitalize on his uncle's name, and often by saying he is the real Canaletto.
Canaletto moved to London in 1746 and spent nine years there. Unfortunately, rumors about the authenticity of his paintings started to spread, and people thought that paintings sold in Canaletto's name might not be original. To disapprove that Canaletto published two invitations. In 1755 Canaletto came back to Venice, where he lived the rest of his life. In 1763 he was chosen to be a member of the Venetian Academy of painting. Even with the high popularity and commercial success of Canaletto, he faced financial problems. He spent the last time of his life in poverty. In 1768 he died from a bladder inflammation. Canaletto's works were in high demand during his time, and they gave inspiration to the next generation of artists.