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Canaletto Paperback – March 30, 1999
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From Library Journal
- Ellen Bates, New York
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Little is known about Canaletto's life and Links does not try to read more into the few facts that do exist. He does try to piece together Canaletto's life by dating his many paintings. If you are a Canaletto enthusiast and want to know more about what inspired him and how he lived you will be disappointed. No one knows how or why this man became the greatest painter of "view paintings" of all time except that his father was a painter of theatre scenes and undoubtedly exposed the young Canaletto to his trade at an early age. Canaletto's nephew was Bernardo Bellotto, a man who at his very best could claim to be as good as his uncle. Whereas Bellotto painted mostly in Germany, Canaletto is most famous for his views of Venice. The shimmering reflections of the Grand Canal, the faded and peeling stucco sides of the palaces, the many boat plying the waterways, and finally the people of Venice are captured in the all- seeing eye of the "camera man" of the 18th century.
Canaletto's best patrons were the English who were overcome by Venice's beauty and Canaletto's ability to capture it on canvas. He made two trips to London and his works there of the newly built Westminister Bridge, the Thames, and the castles of the rich rival his works of his native city. Most of Canaletto'w works are on display in English museums or in private collections in that country.
Links is not an interpreter of art and does not attempt to explain in detail the many plates in his book from an artistic perspective. He does explain in great detail the relationship of Canaletto to several Englishmen in Venice who acted as brokers for his many works. Were it not for these men Canaletto's fame would probably have gone less noticed and certainly they are responsible for the many works that still survive, thought sadly many have vanished forever.
While this is a picture book it is not necessarily a "coffee table" one. Canaletto painted scenes immense in size and detail and most do not reproduce that well on a single or even double page of this large book. Still, for a first rate account of Canaletto (slim as the facts may be), the business of art in the 1700's, and over 200 fabulous paintings (dare I say photographs?) and sketches, this is as good as it gets.
Canaletto, a Venetian painter of the early 18th Century, moved from painting stage backdrops to gorgeous perspective views of his native town. If you have ever been to Venice you know that it has an achingly beautiful prospect around every corner. Canaletto reproduced these views artistically, with a keen eye for perspective, architectural detail and atmosphere. His paintings will leave you wanting to book the next flight to Italy. Phaidon does a wonderful job of reproducing his images, in full colour with plenty of detail plates. Canaletto's later work in London and his capriccios and ink drawings are also included. From a visual perspective this book is stunning.
It is, however, a little lacking when it comes to the text. It would seem that we only really know anything about Canaletto through his contacts with a couple of British middlemen , McSwiney and Smith, who engaged him to paint views of Venice for rich Englishman who had toured Venice. We are treated to numerous details about provenances and the lives of the British agents but precious little about Canaletto himself. His style is discussed largely in terms of technique - his use of perspective and the slight deviations he made from the real scenes. But a more in depth analysis of motivation and aesthetics never materializes. A final quibble would be the lack of a good map of Venice. A plan of Venice from 1729 is included, with labels in Italian but is mostly inadequate. The author assumes the reader is familiar with Venetian topology and rarely clarifies details of place.
The book is richly deserving of five stars for its images alone. The text is adequate but not particularily inspired. A brief chronology, list of sources and list of plates, together with a short index make up the somewhat abbreviated scholarly apparatus. If you are looking for a detailed life of Canaletto and a deep analysis of his paintings this book is probably not for you but if you want to simply wallow in the sheer beauty of Venice, it is a definite must.