Canaletto began life as theatrical painter, and the understanding of perspective this instilled helped him all his life. His earliest works are probably a pair of large architectural fantasies such as one might expect of a stage set. By the mid 1720s, however, Canaletto decided to focus on his activities as a painter of views. In doing this he was following in the footsteps of two artists who specialized in vedute, Gaspar van Wittel (1653–1736)—a Dutchman who settled in Italy where he was known as Vanvitelli—and Luca Carlevaris (1663–1730) both catering to a growing population of visitors to Venice. Canaletto’s early views are large in scale, at least a meter wide, and are dramatic: with steeply angled perspective, broadly painted on a dark ground, deep in tone and highly atmospheric, the sky and water full of movement. The most famous of this type are in Dresden where they have been since 1741.
Books on Canaletto
Rosie Razzall and Lucy Whitaker, Canaletto and the Art of Venice, London, 2017.
Katharine Baetjer and J.G. Links, eds., Canaletto, exh. cat., New York, 1989.
J.G. Links, Canaletto, Ithaca, 1982.
William G. Constable, Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1697-1768, 2nd ed., Oxford, 1976.
G.B. Albrizzi, Studi di Pittura, Venice, 1760.