Giovanni Antonio Canal, popularly known as Canaletto, was born in 1697 in Venice, but resided in England for a large portion of his life. His father, Bernardo Canal, was a scene painter, and he trained Canaletto from a young age. His earliest paintings are mostly carefully composed, but freely painted, studies of older artists such as Van Wittel and Luca Carlevaris. He soon realized, however, that paintings of famous sites and vistas, often mass-produced, were popular and easily sold to tourists for better prices than copies of old masterpieces. After this realization, he developed a method of streamlining production, which included hiring and training a number of studio assistants, and selling large numbers of Venetian cityscape paintings to travellers visiting his native city.
His acclaim as a painter among English tourists specifically led to his introduction to the famous collector, and later British consul to Venice, Joseph Smith. This acquaintance resulted in Canaletto ultimately relocating to England. Although his career in England began as promising, the 1741 War of Austrian Succession made travel perilous, and the tourist market decreased significantly. Canaletto’s commercial success fell into steep decline, one that he would never fully recover from. Notwithstanding politically prompted career tribulations, and despite previous failed attempts, the artist was elected to the Venetian Academy in 1765.
Canaletto’s consistent and highly aesthetic style have made him popular amongst eighteenth century collectors and critics, and examples of his work can be found in such prestigious collections as the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the National Gallery, London.