Francesco Guardi 1712 – 1793

Francesco Guardi, was an Italian painter of veduta, nobleman, and a member of the Venetian School. He is considered to be among the last practitioners, along with his brothers, of the classic Venetian school of painting. In the early part of his career he collaborated with his older brother Gian Antonio in the production of religious paintings. After Gian Antonio’s death in 1760, Francesco concentrated on veduta. The earliest of these show the influence of Canaletto, but he gradually adopted a looser style characterized by spirited brush-strokes and freely imagined architecture.

His works included both landscapes and figure compositions. His early vedutas show influence both from Canaletto and Luca Carlevarijs. In his later years, Canaletto’s influence on his art diminished and he formed his own  painterly style is known as pittura di tocco (of touch) for its small dotting and spirited brush-strokes. This looser style of painting had been used by Giovanni Piazzetta and Sebastiano Ricci, and recalls, in some religious themes, the sweetened sfumato of Barocci’s Bolognese style. In this he differs from the more linear and architecturally accurate style of Canaletto’s painting. This style, a century later, would make Guardi’s works highly prized by the French Impressionists.

Canaletto, as a vedutista, concentrated on glamorous urban architecture erected by the imperial republic; on the other hand, in Guardi, the buildings often appear to be melting and sinking into a murky lagoon. Canaletto’s canvases often have intricate linear and brilliant details, and depict Venice in sunny daylight. Guardi paints clouded skies above a city at dusk. These contrasts, however, simplify the facts, since Canaletto often painted the drab communal life and neighbourhood’s (creating in them some epic artistic qualities), while Guardi did not avoid sometimes painting the ceremonies of Ducal Venice.

Ultimately, Guardi’s paintings evoke the onset of the dissipation. The citizenry has shrunken to an impotent Lilliputian crowd of “rubber-neckers”, unable to rescue the crumbling Republic, It was fitting depiction of the rapidly declining empire, which had declined, in Napoleon’s assessment, into a “drawing room of Europe” peopled with casinos, carnivals, and courtesans for hire.

Guardi died at Campiello de la Madonna in Cannaregio (Venice) in 1793.

 

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