Veduta (View Painting)
It appears that Francesco found his forte in vedute painting, but
those paintings that can definitely be attributed to him, are dated mainly
after the 1750s. A veduta (singular) is a detailed, usually large
scale painting of a cityscape.
As a genre, vedute painting originated with Flemish landscape artists
such as Paul Brill and was perfected by masters such as Jan
Vermeer. By the 18th century, when Guardi was active, Venice was home
to the greatest collection of veduta artists in painting, etching and
other print media. Guardi's first series of view-paintings has strong
echoes of Canaletto, with his exaggerated perspectives and powerful light
and colour. This style changed
during the 1750s, when Guardi turned to a darker palette: his skies became
stormy and charged with atmosphere. Where Canaletto, and indeed Bernardo
Bellotto attempted to cram their townscapes with as much detail as
possible, Guardi was more concerned about creating a mood and atmosphere.
This approach was not popular with 18th century buyers, many of whom were
foreign and wanted to buy the more photographic views of Canaletto and
Bellotto. It was not until the 19th and 20th century that Guardi's painterly
skills became more appreciated.
In 1757, Guardi is recorded as having married Maria Mattea, daughter
of painter Matteo Pagani. In the same year, his brother Gianantonio died.
Although Guardi also had some training under the painter Michele Marieschi
in 1735, he was still employed by others while in his 40s. Financial success
never came his way. In 1763 he worked in Murano, finishing a Miracle
of a Dominican Saint in the church of San Pietro Martire. In the same
year came an important commission involving a series of twelve canvases
on the subject of the Doge's Feasts. These pictures, which are
among Guardi's most important mature works, depicted the ceremonies held
in 1763 for the election of Doge Alvise IV Mocenigo. In 1778, Gaudi
painted Holy Trinity Appearing to St Peter and Paul for the Parish
Church of Roncegno, and in 1782, he was commissioned by the Venetian Government
to create six paintings celebrating the visit of Russian Archdukes to
the City. The same year he was finally admitted to the Fine Arts Academy
As well as view-paintings, Guardi also painted capricci pictures,
compositions of architectural fantasy, placing buildings and people in
fictional, often fantastical combinations. Capricci are usually classified
under the genre of landscape painting, but the term can also refer to
other types of works with elements of fantasy. Capricci painters include
Marco Ricci, Giovanni Paolo Pannini and Canaletto.
Gianbattista Tiepolo also carried out etchings in this style, reducing
buildings to classical ruins, in which beautiful people cast in exotic
clothes carried out their enigmatic business, with no titles or words
of explanation to explain the works.
In his mature works Guardi sometimes used sfumato
as a technique for creating depth and atmosphere. Sfumato is one
of the 4 canonical painting modes of the Renaissance, the others being
and Unione. When applying sfumato, the painter avoids the
extremes of light and dark, and the brightness values are grouped tightly
together around the middle grey. Guardi's mastery of this oil
painting technique can be seen in his Story of Tobit, at the
Church of Saint Raphael Angel in Venice. In the last 20 years of his life,
Guardi created some of his most personal and expressionist works. His
city views became less detailed, his brushwork shimmering. He often applied
his paint in small dots, a style that is known as pittura di tocco.
This element proved highly impressive to the Pointillists and Neo-Impressionism
in later years. Guardi died in Venice in 1793.
Fake Art Works
Guardi was enormously prolific and his work can be found in the best
art museums in Italy, France and Britain, including: the Venice
Academy Gallery, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence; Museo Poldi Pezzoli,
Milan; Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan; Museo Civico, Treviso; Galleria Franchetti,
Venice; Museo del Settecento Venice; Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Venice;
Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona; Louvre, Paris; Staatliche Museen, Berlin;
Alte Pinakothek, Munich; Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; National Gallery,
London; National Museum, Belgrade; Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon;
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and
National Gallery of Art, Washington.
The only problem concerns the similarity
between Francesco's and Gianantonio's canvases. Guardi never seems to
have opened his own studio, although his son Giacomo (1764-1835)
assisted him on many works, and later would copy his works specializing
in gouache views of Venice (which
lacked the freshness of his father's paintings). Also, there was an active
industry in fake Guardi's during the late 18th century, a fact aggravated
by Guardi's habit of painting the same scene over and over again.