(Born Venice, 17 October 1697; died Venice, 19 April 1768). Venetian painter, etcher and draughtsman, the most famous view-painter of the 18th century. He began his career assisting his father, a theatrical scene painter; their work included sets for Vivaldi operas in Venice and Alessandro Scarlatti operas in Rome, which they visited in 1719–20. Whilst he was in Rome Canaletto made drawings of ancient monuments and famous modern buildings, and after his return to Venice he abandoned theatrical work for topographical painting (see veduta). His early paintings of Venice include some intimate views of unremarkable pieces of townscape, treated with great freshness of observation and liveliness of touch (The Stonemason's Yard, c.1727, NG, London). However, he soon began to specialize in much grander views showing the public face of the city, including festivities on the canals. His colouring became stronger and brighter and his handling smoother and more precise. He worked from drawings made on the spot and also made use of a camera obscura, but although his pictures give the feeling of being extremely accurate records, he in fact often made departures from topographical correctness in the interests of creating a better composition—changing the proportions of a building or shifting its position and so on. He also produced imaginary views (see capriccio).

Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)

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