Canaletto un­der the spot­light

Country Life Every Week - - Exhibition -

Canaletto’s draw­ings and prints have a gallery of their own and, good­ness, what a lovely draughts­man he was! Par­tic­u­larly evoca­tive are scenes away from the crowded canals, among the lonely islets and in the marshes fring­ing the la­goon.

Re­search dur­ing the prepa­ra­tion of the ex­hi­bi­tion has chal­lenged—for once, the jar­gon word is ac­cu­rate—pre­vi­ous be­liefs about his work­ing meth­ods. It had long been as­sumed that he made con­sid­er­able use of a cam­era ob­scura, a con­trap­tion that pro­jected an image of a scene onto pa­per so that it could be traced, and it’s likely that, on oc­ca­sion, he did use such a cam­era, es­pe­cially as one of two in the Cor­rer Mu­seum has his name on it.

How­ever, in­frared pho­tog­ra­phy (top) of draw­ings such as The Cen­tral Stretch of the Grand Canal (above), which shows his erased pen­cil draw­ing be­neath the ink and wash, proves that he first drew free­hand out of doors, be­fore care­fully plot­ting out and re­ar­rang­ing the scene with pen­cil and ruler in the stu­dio. As much as the paint­ings, many of these draw­ings are care­ful con­fec­tions rather than ex­act por­traits.

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