Canaletto in London: 1746-50

Immigrant life and quest for success?

So, by the end of May 1746 Canaletto is reported arriving in London, with a presentation letter from the Venetian Consul directed to Owen Swiny asking that Canaletto would be put in contact with the Duke of Richmond.

Owen Swiny initiates his contacts in England getting in touch with Tom Hill, tutor of the Duke, and in May 1746 receives this answer:

"I told him the best service I thought you could do him would be to let him draw a view of the river from your dining - room which would give him as much reputation as any of his Venetian prospects."

At this point the new situation, with accomodations, etc, would start to roll: Canaletto would do the two required paintings that will serve as introduction to whoever would visit the Duke of Richmond's house, sort of a portfolio.

We have no idea of how much he was familiar with the language or how he adapted, but he had, in the last fifteen years, made paintings for his British clients, so he may supposedly have adapted well to the new situation.

In London Canaletto begins a new life, using the public image he has achieved as "the best view painter in Venice" to satisfy the British Nobility in theire wishes/hunger for high quality view paintings.

And he was a celebrity, after all, so he was surely been treated the best possible as much as this was also, a high point in his professional life: being recognized as the best Vedute painter from Italy, and having such important clients and references.

In England Canaletto painted a lot of everything, mostly "on demand": castles, views of the city, bridges, whatever they asked him to paint, as a true professional is used to do.

He also had to adapt to new media: canvases had a finer weave and colors had a different mixture, but a good professional knows how to make the best in any situation.

He experimented new techniques, like doing a light gray canvas preparation and researching different color effects, especially in the use of pink skies. Colors and weather were different in England from what he was used to seeing in Italy.

In the opinion of the most known and important scholar of Canaletto, W. G. Constable (1887-1976), England was - in some way - the beginning of his decadence, from which he never recovered, and I got the same impression too, after a few months of frantically analyzing his paintings.

More modern scholars see things differently, though, but this is nothing to be surprised about.

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