OIL PAINTING: An Architectural Caprice, 1777
Francesco Guardi, although remembered almost exclusively for his real and imaginary Venetian scenes, worked with his older brother Giovanni Antonio on paintings in many genres: altarpieces, mythological narratives, battle pictures, and even murals. A newly discovered altarpiece, dating from after his brother's death around 1777, proves that Francesco continued to paint some large-scale pictures after the dissolution of the family firm. But from around 1760 his main work consisted of views indebted to Canaletto, whose designs he often copied. Soon, however, Guardi freed himself both from literal topography and Canaletto's more prosaic manner, to concentrate on poetic capricci - airy compilations of Venetian architectural motifs such as this picture, as well as ruins, and evocations of the sparkling waters of the lagoon which he was the first painter to depict. His pastel colours and glancing touch may have been influenced by his sister's husband, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Guardi's pictures, however, became smaller and smaller, some barely larger than matchboxes. These were presumably intended as tourist trinkets, souvenirs for the boudoir rather than mementoes of the Grand Tour for great English country houses.