Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Canaletto and Bellotto

The National Gallery's exhibition, Venice: Canaletto and his Rivals, ends on Sunday and is definitely worth a visit. It is fascinating to see the works of Antonio Canal, called Canaletto, (1697-1768) and Bernardo Bellotto (1722-1780), his nephew and pupil, side by side, often of exactly the same view, and to examine their differences and similarities. The audio guide is excellent and explained that ,sadly, there is no recorded information about the relationship between the uncle and his precocious nephew.

By the age of 18, Bellotto could imitate his uncle's style so well that it was difficult to say who was the artist. In the 1740s their painting careers were blighted by the War of the Austrian Succession which deterred the British (their main customers) from making The Grand Tour. They parted company: in 1746 Canaletto moved to England for 9 years and in 1747 Bellotto moved to Dresden for 11 years.

The details are sketchy but we know that Canaletto returned to Venice in 1755, was elected to the Venetian Academy in 1763 and continued to paint until he died in 1768. He died in the same apartment where he was born, with very few possessions so he must have either led an extravagant lifestyle or not capitalised on his good reputation or perhaps his painstaking efforts to produce brilliant paintings (the rate of 4 per year was mentioned, in contrast to some of his rivals who "dashed canvases off") meant that his wealth was slow to accumulate. He never married.

His nephew Bellotto, on the other hand, was invited to paint Dresden and Pirna by King August III of Poland and after his death in 1763, became the court painter for King Stanislaw August Poniatowski in Warsaw. He died in Warsaw in 1780 and I assume he was far wealthier than his uncle.


Blogger Angus said...

Only 4 a year ? If only he could have spoken to his latter day counterpart Damien !

1:37 pm  
Blogger Ellee Seymour said...

How wonderful, I adore Venice. I was in London today, but sadly had no time to view this. I so enjoy visiting the London galleries too.

7:07 pm  
Blogger Whispering Walls said...

LOL Angus

Hope you had a good day, Ellee

8:29 am  
Blogger Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Very interesting post, WW.

8:53 pm  
Blogger James Bond said...

There is an excellent exhibition of Caneletto and his peers at the West Wing of the National Gallery in Washington DC at the moment (April 2011). Several of Caneletto's and Bellotto's views (e.g. of the Grand Canal looking west) are hung side by side; the similarities and differences are striking. Bellotto's colours are cooler; Caneletto's perspective is exaggerated to make the scene more monumental.

If Bellotto had survived I think he would have been the greater painter, but if only because of his output, Caneletto has to be more important.

3:06 pm  

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