Giacomo Guardi A View of the Venetian Lagoon with the Island of San Giacomo di Paludo
A View of the Venetian Lagoon with the Island of San Giacomo di Paludo
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Giacomo Guardi ( Venice 1764 - Venice 1835 )

The Guardi Family
Domenico (1678–1716) founded the family bottega or workshop of veduta painting in Venice and the business was carried on by his two sons, Giovanni Antonio (Gianantonio) (1699–1760), one of the founders of the Venetian Academy, and Francesco (1712–93). Recent researches have radically altered our conception of Francesco Guardi's early development and training. Previously known as a painter of views and commemorative pictures of state visits, it is now certain that he only began to specialize in this genre towards 1760 after a long period of association with his brother Giovanni Antonio, a painter of large altarpieces, including the Death of S. Joseph (Berlin, Gemäldegallerie) and probably the Vision of S. Giovanni di Matha (Pasiano di Pordenone, parish church). Francesco worked under Gianantonio in the family studio, and their individual contributions to joint works during the period 1730–60 are not determined. There are a few signed drawings from this period. Most of the paintings concerned are altarpieces with large figures and very little landscape: an exception is the Stories of Tobias painted for the organ loft in the church of the Angelo Raffaele in Venice, where figures and landscape are of equal importance. Current opinion favours Gianantonio as the creator of the Tobias series, although in style they anticipate the Rococo vitality of Francesco's work.

Francesco became the most famous of the family, largely because of his success as a view painter. Where Canaletto aimed at firm structure in his paintings Guardi preferred the effects of a vibrant atmosphere on buildings and water. His handling of paint derives from Magnasco, whose sharp angular touch he adopted and transformed into Rococo fantasy. Guardi's many beautiful drawings have an unmistakable style. In general his pictures are small (some measure half the size of a postcard), but at Waddesdon (Buckinghamshire, UK) there are two colossal views measuring 3 m×4 m (9×14 ft). His capricci, dating from the latter part of his life, are more purely imaginative than Canaletto's. They represent an international trend towards greater fantasy, seen also in the late landscapes of Gainsborough and the exotic fairy-tale romances and plays of the period. Francesco Guardi never achieved Canaletto's social, academic, or financial success. John Strange, the English resident, commissioned works from him, and in 1782 Peter Edwards gave him a cautiously worded commission to paint four views of the ceremonial visit to Venice of Pius VI (one at Oxford, Ashmolean Museum).

Francesco's son Giacomo, a prolific artist in watercolour and gouache, produced a very limited number of oils, such as this one.

Giacomo Guardi is represented in the following collections: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Courtauld Institute of Art, London; Gallerie di Palazzo Leoni Montanari, Vicenza; MacKenzie Art Gallery, Saskatchewan; Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan, amongst others.

Francesco Guardi is represented in the following collections: Alte Pinacoteca, Munich; Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan; Fine Arts Museums, San Francisco; Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg; Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna; Louvre, Paris; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; National Gallery, London; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Akademie der Bildenden Künst, Vienna; Amarillo Museum of Art, Texas; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Ball State Museum of Art, Indiana; Ca' Rezzonico - Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Venice; Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; Columbia Museum of Art, South Carolina; Courtauld Institute of Art, London; Frick Collection, New York City; Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon; The Wallace Collection, London; Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, amongst others.