Today’s posts will feature a variety of building and structure types all depicted through the medium of paint (or similar). I decided to dedicate an entire day to this subject because I personally feel that though architecture should be seen as an art form in its own right, many people seem to struggle to get their heads around this concept. (I recently read this article from The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones which talks of architecture being the artistic backbone of contemporary visual art. Worth a read!) So, to encourage the viewing of buildings as more than simply functional necessities, I thought I’d show how artists see their artificial surroundings. We’ll look at the work of Canaletto, Monet, Piranesi, and others, a range that should make the incredible variation of architecture depiction in paintings clear to see.
The depiction of architecture in painting flourished during the Renaissance, primarily because the widespread interest in geometry and mathematics resulted in artists working towards accurate perspective in their paintings. The work of Veronese will be addressed today, but other paintings to consider include Raphael’s The Marriage of the Virgin and Botticelli’s The Story of Lucretia. Next summer, the National Gallery in London will be running an exhibition dedicated to the depiction of architecture in Renaissance painting. 'Building the Picture: Architecture in Italian Renaissance Painting' looks to be a real treat, and I will certainly be getting myself a ticket!
The Grand Canal and the Church of the Salute by Canaletto: Baroque, landscape art
Mademoiselle de Camargo Dancing by Nicolas Lancret: Baroque
Juno Receiving the Head of Argos by Jacopo Amigoni, 1730-35: Baroque, Rococo
1697 - 1768
Canaletto was a Venetian painter working in the 18th century. I always end up placing Canaletto with the High-Renaissance artists, but this period was over in Italy and Europe had moved onto Baroque, a more ornate, glamorous and explosive style. Canaletto painted a vast amount of works when he visited England during the Grand Tour, a traditionally upper-class trip around Europe for both study and leisure, where he also sold many of his paintings to English gentlemen.
London, Seen Through the Arch of Westminster Bridge 1746-47
These are two of Canaletto’s pieces depicting London. The piece above is my favourite Canaletto; I love the frame of Westminster Bridge and the glorious yet intimate view of London it brings. The rotunda at Ranelagh, an area of public gardens located in Chelsea, was demolished in 1805. Canaletto captures the impressive interior and the many visitors admiring the rows of arches and columns.
I always find it fascinating to see how foreign painters depict landscapes and architecture of Britain and for me, Canaletto does a pretty good job of making 18th century Britain look accomplished and inspiring. He is also from Venice, one of my all-time favourite cities, and this is why he is my Artist of the Week. Enjoy!
London, Ranelagh, Interior of the Rotunda 1754