18th century Venetian landscape painters (part 2)
Giovanni Antonio Canaletto (1697–1768), who managed to combine documentary precision with a subtle sense of nature, became the true master of the Vedut.
He began to work as a painter in the workshop of a decorator, and in 1719 he went to Rome. Upon returning to his homeland, he began to work independently, and soon his fame spread beyond Venice. Canaletto began to portray significant events in the life of his hometown. So, in 1726, the reception of the French ambassador took place. The painting telling about this event is now in the Hermitage. Soon he wrote The Celebration of the Ascension, then The Reception of the Imperial Ambassador Count Bologna.
The painter worked in the open air, making pencil sketches, which was an innovation at that time. Interesting corners of the city were reproduced in his paintings with bona fide truthfulness and a perfect perspective. At the same time, he constantly cared about the beauty of painting – the picture “Departure of the Venetian Doge for betrothal with the Adriatic Sea” is characteristic. Carefully written buildings, as if shrouded in moist air, golden sunlight, many human figures, the greenish waters of the Adriatic, where every wave is distinguishable, the crimson stain of the Doge’s ship – everything is subordinate to the goal to convey a magnificent, festive spectacle.
Along with the “exact vedut” in Venice, the genre of “fantastic vedut” was also known, the largest representative of which was Francesco Guardi (1712–1793).
In his canvases, the fantastic Venice itself becomes even more like a mirage. Such is the great composition “Doge’s festive ship“ Buchintoro ”of 1770. But, unlike Canaletto, the artist did not seek to document the scene. He creates an enchanting spectacle. It expands the space of the lagoon so that it contains the fabled Doge of the Doge and the countless ships accompanying it, dissolves the palaces in golden air haze, and fills the embankment with a moving, worrying, dynamic crowd.
Guardi was among the creators of the city landscape, a poet of his native city, who was able to lyrically depict any modest corner of Venice. Such is the small painting “Rio dei Mendicanti” of 1780. The main thing is the transmission of the elements of air and water, as if gondolas, figures of people drowning in the mirror of water.
Guardi is a magnificent colorist, fusing the subject world in a single bluish ocher with separate whitening flashes of a colorful mass, so corresponding to a moist, transparent, unsteady Venetian atmosphere. In his paintings, the viewer walks along cozy courtyards, admires the majestic arches with ancient lanterns, looks into the Ridotto gambling house with strange visitors wearing masks, attends music concerts in luxury apartments with stucco moldings, famous Murano glass chandeliers, mirrors and walls covered with blue velvet, wanders through the parks of country villas, slowly floats through the evening lagoon.
Such is the master’s canvas of the painter “Gondola in the Lagoon”, executed in 1780, with its pearl-gray tone and either a moving gondola, or a fairy-tale city that emerges from afar. Painting here acquires the qualities of a figurative poetic stanza.
Guardi is one of the brilliant masters of drawing in world art. He transmitted light and air, the mobility and variability of the atmosphere, the alternation of spatial plans. Indescribably fit human figures into the environment, depicting a mass of people with a few fluent touches, – in a word, gave scenes vitality.
The artist worked with a pen and a thin brush, loved brown ink, a bistre, and sometimes used watercolor. He drew, as a rule, on thick, rough paper, which made it possible to achieve pictorial effects. The technique gave the image a special dynamism, lightness, airiness. Here, for example, is a drawing of the “Venetian Courtyard” bistre with washings of varying intensity, light, transparent shadows and temperamental strokes of the pen. It is not for nothing that Guardi’s paintings and drawings with their subtle, poetic mood, and a variety of shades of feelings anticipated the romantic landscape of the 19th century.