Antonio Canal (Il Canaletto)
(Venedig, 1697-1768, Venedig)
The Grand Canal, ca. 1738/42
Oil on canvas, 121 x 152 cm
Constable-Links 224
"The pronounced atmospheric relationship between the actual Impressionists and the Venetians of the eighteenth century brought me ultimately to Canaletto, Guardi and Tiepolo" – this is how, in a talk given in 1954, Emil Bührle described the path that led him from his main interest, French Impressionism, to certain schools of older painting. This large-format view of the Canale Grande in Venice is, together with the depiction of the church of Santa Maria della Salute, a central work in the small-but-select Venetian part of the Bührle Collection. Both paintings belong to a series, originally comprising six views, which traced the route of the canal from north to south. The artist Antonio Canal, better known under his pseudonym "Canaletto", achieves an effect of radiant brightness, chiefly through strong shadows cast onto the walls of buildings. The sense of hyper-realistic precision is further reinforced by painstakingly reproduced gondolas and figures. They seem so true to life that it is easy to forget that all these paintings were produced in the studio and not, as with the works of the Impressionists, painted directly from Nature. Canaletto was the first great exponent of Venetian “Vedute“, a term derived from the Italian word for a view, "la veduta". Vedute painting arose during the eighteenth century in response to a demand from travellers doing the Grand Tour of Italy in order to round off their education. The British Consul in the city, Joseph Smith, contributed greatly to the success of the Venetian Veduta as a genre by arranging commissions from wealthy families in Great Britain. A commission of this kind is to thank for the series to which the two paintings in the Bührle Collection belong. In the meantime they hung for nearly two hundred years in the castle of the Dukes of Buccleigh near Edinburgh, until they were offered for sale in 1953.