Published  09/02/2007

Travelling Canaletto

Antonio Canaletto has come to London, with an exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Previously the painter of Venetian views for the Grand Tourists in Venice, his market dried up with the War of the Austrian Succession. But, apart from one brief trip back to Venice, he was to stay in London for all of nine years. While in England he produced a highly varied selection of views - more often than not without water, which had so enhanced the scenes in Venice.

Canaletto would have realised that he was staying in the real European metropolis of the Western world. Its commercial dynamic already far exceeded that of Venice itself. As he became more confident of his new milieu, he painted characteristically English scenes, such as Warwick Castle on a sea of green and verdant pasture. To Canaletto, in England there were always sunny summer days. He now rose to the challenge of a new and different, more northerly environment, and he adapted and mastered it - even the skies. This meant that he could, and did, paint better and less stereotyped Venetian views, even in England, of which some nine hang in this exhibition. He even managed to paint his view of the old Horse Guards Parade and make it look as interesting as Venice's Piazza San Marco. In his view of Westminster Bridge, he seems to fully capture the technology of the new bridge, ahead of anything he would have found in the Veneto.

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