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Cambridge University's Fitzwilliam Museum acquires important paintings
Francesco Guardi (1712-1793), A capriccio ruined building by the coast, with figures. © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

CAMBRIDGE.- The Fitzwilliam Museum has acquired three important paintings: two delightfully solemn portraits of young boys by the Dutch artist, Adriaen van Ostade (1610-85), and a vibrantly imaginary Italianate coastal view by the Venetian painter, Francesco Guardi (1712-93).

The paintings have been received from the estate of George Pinto under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, which is administered by the Arts Council. It allows for the ownership of works of art to be transferred to the nation in lieu of inheritance tax.

Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, George Pinto (1929-2018) was a merchant banker who served as director of Kleinwort Benson. A passionate and distinguished art collector, he was a life member of the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Marlay Group, a patron of the National Gallery and trustee of the Wallace Collection. A generous and engaging individual, he was fondly described by colleagues as ‘an eccentric’. He died aged 89 in a road accident.

Born in Haarlem, Adriaen van Ostade was one of the most prolific seventeenth century Dutch painters of peasant scenes, taverns and village fairs. He also painted a number of portraits, including these two unidentified boys. Both were executed in the 1660s, when Ostade had adopted a fine painting technique as practised by the Leiden school of fijnschilders (literally ‘fine painters’), a group of artists who painted their subjects with meticulous attention to detail.

The Fitzwilliam already has two paintings and four drawings by Ostade, as well as a significant collection of over eighty prints, all of which depict his more typical subject matter of jovial peasants. These two portraits, of a kind rarely seen in public collections, will now better represent Ostade’s oeuvre within Cambridge and the UK.

After Canaletto, Francesco Guardi was the most prominent painter of Venetian views in the eighteenth century. From 1770, his brushwork became looser and freer, and he used a lighter colour palette, as seen in this painting.

His views also became less topographically accurate; instead he preferred to paint imaginary architecture in a state of ruin within a picturesque setting. Mostly small in format, these capricci were very popular with Venetian collectors who preferred their sense of invention to topographically exact views of the city. There are four paintings and two drawings by Guardi in the collection; this painting will stand out as the Museum’s finest example of his imaginary subjects.

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