Canaletto under the spotlight
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.