The Canaletto masterpiece right here in Hull

A typical Canaletto view of Venice
A typical Canaletto view of Venice

When I visited the Ferens Gallery in Hull years ago I expected, and I was not disappointed, to see some great paintings.

I was shocked however to see a Canaletto masterpiece - a painting of Venice no less. I would have expected to travel hundreds of miles to see one.

Canaletto lived from 1697 to 1768. He was born and made his reputation in Venice, Italy, before travelling to and painting Rome and London. He became just as revered in London as in his native land.

Canaletto differed from his contemporaries in several ways. He often painted outdoors from life, instead of in the studio as was the norm at the time. He also showed a lot of interest in the places and lives of ordinary people, and in addition to being very beautiful his paintings have a historical documentary value. Canaletto anticipated Impressionism in some of his lively brushwork, and his pictures are in many ways peerless.

Canaletto's picture of a Venetian stonemason's yard (Courtesy Wikipedia)
Canaletto's picture of a Venetian stonemason's yard (Courtesy Wikipedia)

The British aristocracy and merchant classes loved Canaletto’s work and he painted many famous houses and landmarks of the United Kingdon to include Northumberland House, Westminster Bridge, Alnwick Castle and Warwick Castle.

King George III bought a whole bunch of Canaletto pictures in 1762. In 2005 a Canaletto picture of Venice sold for a cool £18.6 million.