Exhibition | Canaletto: A Venetian’s View

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on October 8, 2022

Canaletto, View of the Grand Canal Looking East from Palazzo Bembo to Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi, mid 1730s, oil on canvas, 47 × 80 cm
(Woburn Abbey Collection, Bedfordshire)

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Now on view at Worcester City Art Gallery:

Canaletto: A Venetian’s View
Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum, 1 October 2022 — 7 January 2023

Curated by Deborah Fox

Celebrating the work of Canaletto, particularly paintings commissioned by the 4th Duke of Bedford in the 1730s, the exhibition features stunning paintings from the Woburn Abbey Collection alongside artworks from Worcester’s Fine Art Collection and loans from Birmingham Museums, Tate, and Compton Verney.

Born in Venice, Giovanni Antonio Canal (1697–1768), commonly known as Canaletto, was an important member of the 18th-century Venetian school. He became very popular with English collectors and visited England repeatedly between 1746 and 1756. Canaletto revolutionised the use of colour, ground, and canvas and pioneered the technique of painting from life, sitting in front of the subject outdoors as opposed to his contemporaries who completed paintings in the studio. Canaletto: A Venetian’s View explores the painter’s work and the impact he had on the generations of artists who followed him.

It is extremely rare for this hugely significant collection to leave Woburn Abbey, and this is the first time the paintings have been united with other examples of Canaletto’s work from Birmingham Museums and Compton Verney. The paintings on display comprise the largest set of paintings Canaletto produced for a single patron, John Russell, the 4th Duke of Bedford, who commissioned the works in the 1730s. They are considered the absolute best of Canaletto’s paintings of Venice. The exhibition is being described as the most ambitious in the history of Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum.

William Marlow, View on the Thames, ca. 1775, oil on canvas, 49 × 79 cm (London: Tate, T00930).

Deborah Fox, Senior Curator at the Art Gallery and Museum commented: “We are committed to bringing great art and artists to the region and through bringing Canaletto to Worcester we are offering a once in a generation opportunity to see these incredible artworks ‘on your doorstep’ as well as creating an opportunity to showcase and reinterpret important works in our own collection. We see this exhibition as a wonderful opportunity not only to bring world class art to the gallery, but also to examine its influence on some of Worcester’s best-loved artworks.”

The twenty paintings of Venice on loan from the Woburn Abbey Collection are accompanied by three other works by Canaletto—two views of Warwick Castle on loan from Birmingham Museums and a view of Vauxhall Gardens that normally hangs at Compton Verney—as well as by a wonderful work from Tate painted by William Marlow considered to be Canaletto’s natural heir. Canaletto’s influence is further explored through Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum’s own collection including a beautiful view of Worcester Cathedral by Marlow and works by Paul Sandby, Samuel Prout, and Samuel Rowlandson—all of whom were heavily influenced by Canaletto. Worcester’s most famous artist, B.W. Leader, is represented in the exhibition through the inclusion of one of his most famous works, February Fill Dyke (1881), also on loan from Birmingham Museums.

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Matthew Hirst, Canaletto in Context
Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum, Thursday, 13 October 2022, 6pm

Matthew Hirst, Curator at Woburn Abbey, will discuss the fascinating paintings by Canaletto currently on display at Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum, exploring their context in wider fine and decorative arts in the collections at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire. Tickets include exhibition entry, a drink, and the talk.

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