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Canaletto in Venice

Canaletto was born in Venice in 1697, the son of Bernardo Canal (1674–1744), a painter of stage sets. He initially followed in his father’s footsteps, but soon abandoned this low-status work and began producing view paintings, taking the city of Venice as his principal subject. Although Canaletto’s views appear to be faithful to reality, he often moved buildings around and manipulated the perspectives to create a better composition.

Canaletto was a prolific draughtsman, making hundreds of drawings of the city he saw around him. Some of his sheets were preparatory studies for his paintings, but more commonly his drawings are finished works in their own right. The drawings shown here depict the most famous monuments of Venice—the Grand Canal, the square around the basilica of San Marco and its distinctive Campanile (bell tower)—as well as quieter, lesser-known corners of the city and lagoon.