Exhibition | Canaletto: The Triumph of Light

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on June 3, 2015


Canaletto, Capriccio, A Palladian Design for the Rialto Bridge, with Buildings, 1744, 90 x 130 cm (London: The Royal Collection, RCIN 404029) © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014.

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From the Centre d’Art de l’Hôtel de Caumont:

Canaletto, Rome—Londres—Venise: Le Triomphe de la Lumière
Centre d’Art de l’Hôtel de Caumont, Aix-en-Provence, 6 May — 13 September 2015

Curated by Bozena Anna Kowalczyk

Giovanni Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto (1697–1768), is recognised as the emblematic figure of the veduta genre, the most admired Venetian artistic creation of the 18th century in Europe. This inaugural exhibition at the art centre of the Hôtel de Caumont aims to provide new insights into the complete works of Canaletto, with a particular interest in the treatment of light in the Venetian master’s paintings. Fifty paintings and drawings from international public and private collections will present Canaletto the man and the different phases of his artistic career, in Rome, London and Venice.

We initially discover Canaletto’s first activity, as a painter of theatre scenery, carried out in collaboration with his father Bernardo Canal and his brother Cristoforo. Opera librettos on which Canaletto’s name appears will be exhibited alongside his first capricci, full of musical influences, painted in 1720–1722, and the first views of Venice, composed according to the criteria for staging.

The exhibition continues with a presentation of the major undertakings of Canaletto’s youth: the views of Venice commissioned by Joseph Smith (1722–1723), Joseph Wenzel of Liechtenstein (1723) and Stefano Conti (1725–1726), are large scale canvases that bear witness to the skill of the young painter.

Canaletto’s visit to England, his contact with new landscapes and the light of the Thames, led to changes in his palette and his touch. A series of paintings and drawings show the new solutions he adopted to capture the atmosphere and spirit of England. Canaletto painted London and lingered over Westminster Bridge, the second bridge over the Thames, then under construction. He also painted the English countryside, travelling as far as outskirts of Scotland to depict Alnwick Castle, home of the Duke of Northumberland.

A special section is devoted to technical experiments conducted by the artist throughout his career. Canaletto conceived a systematic and scientific way to rework drawings that had been made outdoors by means of a camera obscura (dark chamber). An example of the camera obscura used by the painter is presented next to a facsimile that allows the visitor to visualise for himself what the painter would see when using this device. A reproduction of pages from his sketchbook, as well as a film, illustrate the technical work of the artist during his portrayal of views of Venice.

This exhibition is also the occasion to conduct for the first time a comprehensive study of the last years of Canaletto in Venice. The works accomplished after his return from London at the end of 1755 illustrate Canaletto’s new interests and his response to the new artistic climate in Venice, where Francesco Guardi (1712–1793) was making a name for himself. Particular attention is devoted to the artist’s tireless passion for the study of new effects of light and atmosphere. The greatest international museums have granted their support. Among them: the Royal Collection and the National Gallery of London, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the Uffizi Gallery of Florence as well as the Ca’Rezzonico of Venice.

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From artbooks.com:

Bozena Anna Kowalczyk, ed., Canaletto, Rome—Londres—Venise: Le Triomphe de la Lumière (Antwerp: Mercatorfonds, 2015), 224 pages, ISBN: 978-9462300835, 45€ / $85.

canaletto-rome-londres-venise-le-triomphe-de-la-lumiereFor the inaugural exhibition at the Centre d’Art de l’Hôtel de Caumont in Aix-en-Provence, Mercatorfonds presents the first French monograph on Canaletto, and the first worldwide following the Metropolitan Museum’s publication in 1989. Numerous recent shows, focusing on specific aspects of Canaletto’s work or simply on his depictions of Venice, are a clear indication of the public’s interest in the painter’s oeuvre. This volume introduces the reader to Canaletto and, by tracing the various phases of his artistic path, provides a complete overview of his work. To highlight the development of Canaletto’s tastes, his reactions to Venice’s artistic and cultural trends and the atmosphere of England—where he worked for nine years—the paintings and drawings shown here have been selected from among the artist’s most remarkable pieces.


The Art Bulletin, June 2015

Posted in journal articles, reviews by Editor on June 3, 2015

The eighteenth century in The Art Bulletin:

The Art Bulletin 97 (June 2015)


Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Young Girl in Bed Making Her Dog Dance, ca. 1768 (Munich: Alte Pinakothek)

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Young Girl in Bed Making Her Dog Dance, ca. 1768 (Munich: Alte Pinakothek)

• Jennifer Milam, “Rococo Representations of Interspecies Sensuality and the Pursuit of Volupté,” pp. 192–209.

Enlightenment writers proposed the existence of an animal soul, refuting the Cartesian beast-machine. Arguments credit the caresses of a dog to its master as direct visual evidence of the capacity of an animal to feel and show emotion. A focus on paintings by Jean-Honoré Fragonard sets the Rococo representation of lapdogs within the context of changing ideas about the relationship between animal and human. Eroticized images of lapdogs are related to radical materialist theories that assert the role of physical pleasure in human motivation.

Free access to the article is available here for the first fifty clicks (please don’t click if you already have access to the journal).


• Vittoria Di Palma, Review of Hanneke Grootenboer, Treasuring the Gaze: Intimate Vision in Late Eighteenth-Century Eye Miniatures (The University of Chicago Press,
2013), pp. 229–30.



The Art Bulletin, March 2015

Posted in journal articles by Editor on June 3, 2015

The eighteenth century in The Art Bulletin:

The Art Bulletin 97 (March 2015)

The Wallace Collection: Joshua Reynolds: Experiments in Paint

Joshua Reynolds, Studio Experiments in Colour and Media, ca. 1770–1790? (London: Royal Academy of Arts)


Matthew C. Hunter, “Joshua Reynolds’s ‘Nice Chymistry’: Action and Accident in the 1770s,” pp. 58–76.

The first president of Britain’s Royal Academy of Arts, Joshua Reynolds was described by contemporaries as a dangerously misguided chemist. Using a secretive laboratory of fugitive materials, he crafted visually striking images that came together quickly and stopped audiences dead in their tracks. But, just as rapidly, those paintings began to deteriorate as objects—flaking, discoloring, visibly altering in time. When framed around the “nice chymistry” he prescribed for aspiring artists in his famous Discourses, Reynolds’s risky pictorial enterprise can be situated within a broader problematic of making and thinking with temporally evolving chemical images in the later eighteenth century.

Une étude de femme d'après nature

Marie-Denise Villers, Une étude de femme d’après nature, 1802 (Paris: Louvre)

Susan L. Siegfried, “The Visual Culture of Fashion and the Classical Ideal in Post-Revolutionary France,” pp. 77–99.

In her little-known painting A Study of a Woman after Nature (1802), Marie-Denise Villers exploited a conjuncture between masculine-inflected ideals of Neoclassical art and feminine-inflected ideas of fashionability in the post-Revolutionary period in France by making a feature of female dress while emulating the standards of history painting. The artist’s confident synthesis of idioms is examined in the context of Albertine Clément-Hémery’s memoir of a women’s art studio. Walter Benjamin’s notion of gestus is enlisted as a means of understanding how the quite different image cultures invoked in this work communicated social ideas.

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