A Rivalry Worth Seeing: "Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals" Presents Dazzling Cityscapes That Represent the Best View Painters of Venice-Each Responding to the City in His Own Way

USA TODAY, May 2011 | Go to article overview

A Rivalry Worth Seeing: "Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals" Presents Dazzling Cityscapes That Represent the Best View Painters of Venice-Each Responding to the City in His Own Way


SOME OF the finest paintings of Giovanni Antonio Canal (better known as Canaletto), along with his most important contemporaries, are on view in the exhibition, "Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals. These dazzling cityscapes represent the best view painters of Venice---each responding to the city in his own way, and each competing in a market driven largely by the British Grand Tour, at its height during the 18th century. The works of Gaspare Vanvitelli, Luca Carlevarijs. Michele Marieschi, Bernardo Bellotto, and Francesco Guardi are included.

"Unlike previous exhibitions on Venice or Canaletto, this one focuses on rivalries that pitted the artist against his fellow painters," notes Earl A. Powel1III, director of the National Gallery of Art. "Visitors to the show will have the opportunity to compare their differing portrayals of the same or similar sites or monuments."

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The entrance to the exhibit features a 35foot-long gondola that once belonged to the American painter Thomas Moran and now is in the collection of the Mariners' Museum, Newport News, Va. One of the world's oldest gondolas, it "wansports" visitors visually to the lagoon city celebrated in the views of "Canaletto and His Rivals."

The exhibition is part of ITALY@ 150, a se ties of activities throughout the U.S. that celebrates the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy and the long-lasting friendship between the two countries.

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The convergence of an and science is represented in a monumental first edition of "Iconografica Rappresentatione della Inclita Citta di Venezia" (1729), one of the greatest printed maps of cities, and two 18th-century examples of the camera obscura, an optical device likely to have been used by the view painters.

Europe has many beautiful cities, but only Venice inspired a school of view painters who depicted the city, stone by stone and canal by canal, capturing views that remain recognizable today. The genre of vedute (view paintings) culminated in Venice in the 18th century with Canaletto (1697-1768).

In 1719, Canaletto, who was trained as a painter of theatrical scenery, visited Rome, where he was inspired to begin view painting. In the late 1720s, in response to market demand, he began to replace the somberness of his earlier works with views drenched in sunlight. Within a decade, Canaletto dominated the genre and the exhibition includes many of his greatest masterpieces.

Throughout the exhibit, Canaletto's major pieces will be juxtaposed with those of his rivals to illuminate their complex relationships. Organized chronologically, the exhibition includes the pivotal "The Molo from the Bacino di San Marco" (1697) by Vanvitelli (1653-1736), Canaletto's precursor and the founding father of Italian view painting. Trained in the Netherlands and based mostly in Rome, Vanvitelli depicted a Venice distinctly calm in comparison to the work of Canaletto and his contemporaries who followed. …

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