Saturday, November 12, 2005

Canaletto in London

Need an excuse to go to London? Here's one:

Canaletto - the English connection
London show looks at art dealer's role in painter's success
(ANSA)-London, November 12

An exhibition here of works from the largest Canaletto collection in the world spotlights the vital role of an English art enthusiast in the making of the Venetian painter.

The show at The Queen's Gallery in Buckingham Palace features 70 drawings on paper and 14 large oil paintings by Antonio Canale, or Canaletto (1697-1768).

The pieces are part of the collection amassed by Joseph Smith, an Englishman who lived most of his life in Venice and went on to become British consul in the city.

Smith was an art lover and dealer who quickly recognised Canaletto's appeal to the English market, particularly to members of the nobility taking the Grand Tour and eager for a worthy souvenir of their obligatory stopover in Venice.

Not only did Smith purchase Canaletto's paintings on behalf of these rich patrons - the Duke of Bedford bought 20 and the Earl of Carlisle 17 - but he also snapped up the Venetian's works for himself, collecting more than 50 paintings and 140 drawings over the years.

The partnership between Canaletto and Smith lasted more than a quarter of a century and it was this success with English buyers that convinced Canaletto to move to London in 1746.

The artist remained in the British capital for almost a decade but eventually returned to Venice, complaining that he could not adapt to English ways and weather.

Seven years after Canaletto's return to Venice, in 1762, Smith sold his entire collection to British monarch George III. The works have remained in royal hands ever since.

While some of the paintings produced by Canaletto for his English buyers have been criticised as mechanical, those in the Smith collection are considered exceptionally fine and testify to the Englishman's discerning eye.

The oils on show at The Queen's Gallery are all dazzling views of the Grand Canal while the drawings depict a large range of lively scenes of the lagoon city.

'Canaletto in Venice' opened on November 11 and runs until April 23.

© Copyright ANSA. All rights reserved 2005-11-12 12:24

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