These are not just any paintings, these are the Queen’s paintings. That was how I sold a visit to Canaletto and the Art of Venice at the Queen’s Gallery during half term. Well that and the promise of Virtual Reality at Thesholds by Mat Collishaw afterwards. The Queen owns 50 paintings and over 140 of drawings by Canaletto and these form the bulk of this exhibition.
Canaletto was the son of Bernardo Canal, hence his name meaning little Canal. I had always thought that it was in some way a reference to the fact that he painted canals. His father was a set painter for the theatre and Canaletto followed in his footsteps but branched out and started painting Venetian scenes. These came to the attention of the British Consul Joseph Smith who recognised that they would make perfect souvenirs for British tourist in Venice for the Grand Tour. Smith stocked his Venetian palazzo with many Canaletto paintings to provide a showcase to visiting tourists. This series of twelve paintings shows the Grand Canal in its entirety.
I spent a long time looking at these and when I turned to find the Junior CW’s they were animatedly pointing at a series of paintings in the opposite corner.
Turns out that they had spotted that Canaletto quite often included a dog in his paintings but his repertoire of dogs was limited to two. Maybe he just painted his own dogs over and over again?
Joseph Smith ran out of money toward the end of his life and his art collection was put up for sale. George III bought it, mainly for the books because at the time the paintings were not fashionable. George had just purchased Buckingham House and had a lot of walls to fill, most of them still hang in what became a Palace. Viewing them in the place that has been their home for centuries is a special experience with or without teenagers.
CANALETTO AND THE ART OF VENICE
19 May – 12 November 2017
Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London SW1A 1AA
Admission: Adults £11 (have your ticket validated as you leave and it becomes a 1 year pass)
Open: Daily 9.30am – 5.30pm
SHAMELESS PLEA FOR YOUR VOTE!