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Musée Maillol presents first exhibition devoted exclusively to Canaletto's Venetian works
Antonio Canal dit Canaletto, L'entrée du Grand Canal vue de la Piazzetta, 1730. Huile sur toile, 58,5 x 102 cm. Grande-Bretagne, Knutsford, The Egerton of Tatton Park© NTPL/John Bethell.

PARIS.- The Musée Maillol pays homage to Venice with the first exhibition devoted exclusively to Canaletto’s Venetian works. The exhibition will be presented in partnership with the Foundation of Venice Civic Museums which is preparing to put on a Francesco Guardi retrospective at the Correr Museum in Venice to mark the 300th anniversary of that Venetian painter’s birth. Canaletto in Venice will be an exclusive occasion for visitors to enjoy the master’s vision of his city, brought to life through his paintbrush. Along the canals we discover places, islands, squares and monuments, views of a city that still retains its 18th-century charm. The Venetian painter certainly didn’t invent the veduta, or detailed cityscape, a genre that has ancient origins, but he helped to develop it by giving his paintings a modernity that allowed him to overtake his masters.

Canaletto (1697-1768) is the most famous of the Venetian vedutisti of the 18th century. Over the centuries Antonio Canal has never fallen from favour; his works have always been eagerly sought after by collectors. They seem to have an endless charm, unaffected by trends. Canaletto has the crystal clarity of a man who was faithful to the spirit of the Enlightenment, with a very personal vision of reality. His painting manages to capture the very essence of the light; it conveys a unique and sensual shimmering.

The exhibition will bring together more than 50 carefully selected works, from the greatest museums and some historic private collections. On display too will be his drawings and also the famous sketchbook from about 1731, a rare loan by the Gabinetto dei Disegni e Stampe Gallerie the Cabinet of Prints and Drawings of the Accademia Gallery in Venice, which will be displayed open but which can be fully explored on computers.

Visitors will also be able to see a copy, made by Venetian master craftsmen, of the optical chamber used by Canaletto to make his drawings, thanks to a partnership with the superintendence of the Polo Museale of the City of Venice and the research of Dario Maran. It is taken from Canaletto’s original device, which was often used on a boat, made with carefully placed lenses that offered highly precise images that were unique at that time. Visitors will be able to see for themselves just how effective it was.

In recent times Canaletto has had a central role in a series of ground-breaking exhibitions about the vedutisti, including the one in Rome curated by the much-missed Alessandro Bettagno with Bozena Anna Kowalczyk; The Splendours of Venice in Treviso in 2009, by Giuseppe Pavanello and Alberto Craievich; and more recently the outstanding shows in London and Washington, curated by Charles Beddington.

The exhibition at the Musée Maillol aims to be the last in this decade-long cycle by allowing Canaletto alone to lead the spectator around his city through his view paintings. The works on display will show how the artist developed his style. The juxtapositioning of his paintings of the same view will show how his early style, heavily influenced by the artist Marco Ricci and also by his training as a theatrical scenery painter, gradually evolved into interpretations of reality. These were imbued with an atmosphere that was both subtle and sublime, paving the way for painting that was to conquer Europe.

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