'Canaletto' Explores Painter's Vision of Venice in Pictures, Text

CANALETTO - the 18th-century Venetian view-painter whose name is nearly synonymous with the city's - is f^eted in the beautifully produced book bearing his name. It is the Metropolitan Museum of Art's record of the artist's paintings and drawings exhibited at the museum last fall. The 18th-century painter had a generous, inclusive vision of Venice and, according to Michael Levey, ``voraciously scrutinized'' the architecture and the ``disorderly'' city life of the republic. Canaletto's constant creative experimentation can be documented in his drawings (according to Alessandro Bettagno) and in his paintings (according to Viola Pemberton-Pigott). His work includes not only views of the Piazza San Marco, the lagoon basin (ringed by Palladio's churches), and the Grand Canal (beginning with Longhena's domed church of Santa Maria della Salute), but also the quieter corners of Venice, which he ``ordered'' into timeless universal scenes of daily life. The 18th-century biographer Antonio Zanetti saw in the paintings ``beautiful clarity and vitality and ease of color and brushwork.''

The essays that precede the catalog itself explain what Zanetti meant. From the perspectives of patronage, historiography (changing tastes), and technique (the most surprising chapter) they also reveal the ``art'' with which Canaletto ``constructed'' his incomparable view of Venice.

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