In the 18th century, Venice and its timeless charm became the subject of choice for painters known as the Vedutisti. Their views of Venice quickly spread across Europe, making the Veduta the most collected and one of the most loved genres among the public to this day.
Thanks to some generous loans, the Jacquemart-André Museum is now devoting an exhibition to the Veduta for the first time in France, a genre of painting epitomised by Canaletto and Guardi. It is a very under-represented artistic genre in French public and private collections, which makes this exhibition at the Jacquemart-André Museum, "Canaletto - Guardi, the two masters of Venice", a must-see event, from 14 September 2012 to 14 January 2013. Curated by Bożena Anna Kowalczyk, the focus is on spreading an artistic movement born at the dawn of the 18th century, which was mainly collected by wealthy Italian, British and German collectors.
The exhibition gives pride of place to Canaletto, the cornerstone of the genre, showcasing more than twenty-five of the master's essential works from the most prestigious museums and collections, while identifying the artist's place at the heart of the great Veduta artistic movement. His works resonate with those of Gaspar van Wittel, Luca Carlevarijs, Michele Marieschi, Bernardo Bellotto and Francesco Guardi, who was the last master to succeed in immortalising the charm and elegance of the Venetian 18th century. That is why the Jacquemart-André Museum will display about twenty of his works.
The exhibition also lays the stress on "capricci": striking scenes of an imaginary Venice, painted by Canaletto, Guardi and Bellotto. Some of these canvases have never been displayed in a temporary exhibition before.
The undisputed master of the Veduta, Giovanni Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto (Venice 1697-1768) made his mark on his century by immortalising the various faces of the Venice of his time in his canvases, including streets and piazzas, canals and views over the lagoon, daily life and festival days. Canaletto was a theatre painter in his youth, and succeeded in bringing together an expert sense of composition, a perfectly mastered technique of perspective, and attractive lighting effects.
The exhibition takes place on the three-hundredth birthday of Francesco Guardi (1712-1793), and unites more than twenty of his works, rarely exhibited in France. It highlights his links with his older master Canaletto, both considered the most accomplished Vedutisti. For the first time, the Canaletto drawings that the young Guardi admired in Venice are now displayed opposite the Guardi canvases that they inspired. Their works exude a different awareness of perspective and atmospheric effects. While Canaletto’s approach is more rational, Guardi's paintings also highlight his imagination and awareness, as well as the unique character that he carefully crafted for each scene. Guardi's works are typified by warm colours and vibrant light, exalting the beauty of Serenissima and unveiling the charm of a fragile and declining Venice.
Whether they preceded or followed Canaletto, each of the great Vedutisti displayed at the exhibition brings an individual richness in vision and technique.
Gaspar van Wittel (1652/3 – 1736) set the trend for views of Venice by carefully depicting spectacular settings on each canvas, where the buildings contrast with the transparency, movement and reflections of the water.
In his wake, Luca Carlevarijs (1663-1730) portrayed a festive Venice, to the rhythm of foreign ambassadors' grandiose welcomes as they arrived at the Doge's Palace.
Michele Marieschi (1710-1743), from almost the same generation as Canaletto, was his skilled rival. His preference for unexpected viewing angles sets him apart.
Following Canaletto's considerable success, his nephew, Bernardo Bellotto (1722-1780), trained at the master's school, casting Venetian landscapes in a colder and silvery light, and often utilising innovative compositions. Belletto led to the spread of the Venitian veduta in Europe and became a major protagonist of this genre during the second half of the 18th century.
Although the Vedutisti sought to depict 18th century Venice in every detail, it is little-known that they also devoted a considerable portion of their works to inventing an imaginary, fantasy Venice, through the "capriccio" genre. Concern with reality is abandoned in favour of dreaming up reimagined, rustic or unsettling scenes. These spectacular views, created by Canaletto, Guardi or Bellotto, will be examined in detail in the exhibition.
In order to reunite more than fifty key works, more than twenty of which have never been displayed outside their museums of origin, the Jacquemart-André Museum has received support from the largest European and American museums, who helped to make the exhibition a reality through their exceptional loans. These include the London National Gallery, the British Royal Collection, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, the Louvre Museum in Paris, the New York Frick Collection, the Parma National Gallery, the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts, and more.
The Royal Collection
The British Crown possesses the largest collection of Canaletto paintings and drawings. Almost all of them were commissioned to Canaletto by Joseph Smith, the British consul at Venice from 1744, who then sold his collection to George III, King of England. Dr Bozena Anna Kowalczyk, general curator of the exhibition at the Jacquemart-André Museum, studied this prestigious Canaletto collection in great detail, and was granted a loan of eight of Canaletto’s exceptional works, which will be displayed for the first time in Paris. Some of these have never been shown in public outside Windsor Castle or the Queen's Gallery in Buckingham Palace.