Painter, architecture painter, landscape painter, draughtsman, etcher and commercial artist
Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto, received his first training under his father, a painter of stage sets, whom he accompanied on a trip to Rome in 1719. By 1720 he was working independently in Venice, increasingly specialising in Venetian city views. His most important patron, champion and agent was the English art dealer Joseph Smith (ca. 1674-1770), who had resided in Venice since roughly 1700 and served as British consul since 1744. He owned the largest collection of paintings, drawings and graphics by Canaletto and sold his works to English clients visiting Venice on their Grand Tour. Smith had Antonio Visentini produce engravings after some of Canaletto's vedute ('Prospectus Magni Canalis Venetiarum', 1735, and as an enlarged version, 'Urbis Venetiarum Prospectus Celebriores', 1742). Together with his nephew Bernardo Bellotto, in 1740 Canaletto journeyed along the Brenta to Padua, a trip documented in some thirty drawings. From the early 1740s he also realised drawings with Roman motifs, presumably relying on sketches he had made on his trip to Rome with his father or on drawings by Bellotto, who had previously visited the city. Probably encouraged and financed by Smith, Canaletto then produced engravings of his own, which appeared in 1744 under the title 'Vedute / Altre prese da i Luoghi altre ideate'. When English visitors stayed away from Venice because of the War of the Austrian Succession, Caneletto, at Smith's urging, left for London. In late 1750 he returned to Venice, but from 1751 to 1755 he was again in England. There he produced numerous views of the Thames. He worked for English clients as well as for Smith, to whom he sent many drawings in Venice. In financial difficulties, Smith finally sold his collection to England's King George III in 1762. This is why most of Canaletto's paintings and drawings are found to this day in the royal collection at Windsor Castle.